Joe Biden thinks Hillary doesn't know what the hell she's talking about on Iraq ... Edwards is a know-nothing ... and Barack Obama is one cleeeeeean Black man. Don't believe me? Here are the quotes from the New York Observer interview. First, on Hillary:
“Everyone in the world knows her,” he said. “Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can’t break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They’ve looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?”
On John Edwards:
Mr. Biden seemed to reserve a special scorn for Mr. Edwards, who suffered from a perceived lack of depth in foreign policy in the Presidential election of 2004.
“I don’t think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about,” Mr. Biden said, when asked about Mr. Edwards’ advocacy of the immediate withdrawal of about 40,000 American troops from Iraq.
“John Edwards wants you and all the Democrats to think, ‘I want us out of there,’ but when you come back and you say, ‘O.K., John’”—here, the word “John” became an accusatory, mocking refrain—“‘what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?’ Well, John will have to answer yes or no. If he says yes, what are they? What are those interests, John? How do you protect those interests, John, if you are completely withdrawn? Are you withdrawn from the region, John? Are you withdrawn from Iraq, John? In what period? So all this stuff is like so much Fluffernutter out there. So for me, what I think you have to do is have a strategic notion. And they may have it—they are just smart enough not to enunciate it.”
And on Barack:
... “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
But—and the “but” was clearly inevitable—he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”
(After the interview with Mr. Biden and shortly before press time, Mr. Obama proposed legislation that would require all American combat brigades to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of March 2008.)
Mr. Jackson described Mr. Biden’s remarks to the Observer, which also included critical statements about the Iraq positions of two of his Democratic opponents — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina — as “blabbering bluster.”
A wounded note to his voice, Mr. Jackson pointed out that he had run against Mr. Biden for the 1988 Democratic nomination, and had lasted far longer and drawn more votes than did Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden was forced out in September 1987.
“I am not sure what he means — ask him to explain what he meant,” Mr. Jackson said. “I don’t know whether it was an attempt to diminish what I had done in ’88, or to say Barack is all style and no substance.”
Mr. Sharpton said that when Mr. Biden called him to apologize, Mr. Sharpton started off the conversation reassuring Mr. Biden about his hygienic practices. “I told him I take a bath every day,” Mr. Sharpton said.
No stranger to electoral intrigue, Mr. Sharpton was quick to offer a political motive: That Mr. Biden was drawing distinctions between Mr. Obama and African-American leaders like Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson, to “discredit Mr. Obama with his base.”
Well Joe, you've had your Youtube moment. Now go to Macaca.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Presdident Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- despite his occasional tendency toward overreaching -- didn't order the U.S. military to dispatch soldiers and sailors to attack Tokyo. He went to Congress, and asked for a declaration of war. Those were the good old days, when Congress mattered and the president knew it.
Somebody has to tell George W. Bush that he is not a monarch. He does not have the unilateral power to spy on Americans, database our private info, or declare war. Specifically, he does not now, nor has he ever asked Congress for, the authority to wage war on Iran.
To that end, Senators Pat Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of PA are demanding that Bush's justice department explain to Congress just what authority he thinks Congress has when it comes to waging war on Iran.
Let's see how that works out. Meanwhile, Barack Obama releases his version of a plan to extricate the U.S. from Iraq.
Ari Fleischer testifies at the Scooter Libby trial -- contradicting Dick's right hand man on the subject of just when Scooter found out about Valerie Plame's identity (he testified that Scooter told him three days before Scooter's fabled convo with Tim Russert -- you know, the one where he heard about Plame for the "first time" -- during the one and only lunch Libby ever invited Ari to...) BTW, the Ari-Libby convo was "hush hush, on the QT..." On the stand today: Judy Miller.
The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.
This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.
Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.
US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.
The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.
It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. ...
Meanwhile, who's to blame for Iran's dramatic rise in power and influence in the Mideast? George W. Bush, start talking to the man in the mirror... And Europe, which blames the U.S. for Iran's rise, is balking at Bush administration attempts to force Western countries to cut ties to Tehran.
Two Black fraternity members have been sentenced to two years in prison for "felony hazing" in Florida. Meanwhile, four white frat guys get charged with a misdemeanor, for the same thing. What's wrong with this picture? We talked to the lawyer in the Black frat hazing case this morning, and he's filing motions calling on the judge to step down, saying she was biased toward the prosecution from the get-go. Circuit court judge Kathleen Decker said the two Black men -- one a pharmacy major and the other an engineering major -- needed to be made an example of. Hm... Doesn't sound biased to me.
Meanwhile, a Florida farm boss gets 30 years for running a virtual slave camp -- recruiting homeless Black men from Miami and then putting them to work in his cesspool of a camp, where money for booze, cigarettes and even crack cocaine -- which was sometimes stuffed in their meager paychecks -- was deducted from the workers' pay, sometimes leaving them with just 30 cents on the dollar. The guy's wife and son were also convicted in the case. Read the unbelievable story and the Herald's investigative work on the subject here.
Staying on the race topic, a new study says that the lighter you are, the more money you make, and that goes not just for African-Americans, but also for immigrants from ... well ... anywhere.
Laura has named President Bush's new executive pastry chef, and he has an impressive resume. William 'Bill' Yosses...
... is trained in classical French cooking, was the White House Holiday Pastry Chef for the 2006 holiday season, helped open Paul Newman's Dressing Room in Westport, Conn., and ran the pastry department at the Tavern on the Green Restaurant in New York City.
He's also active in Spoons Across America, "a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating children, teachers, and families about the benefits of healthy eating.
Yosses is an author too, though the White House didn't list that among his credits. He co-wrote Desserts for Dummies.
... Well, at least he's found exactly the right person to bake for... other door, Bushie ... other door ... out you go...
Hillary Clinton's inexorable march toward the White House continues this week, fresh off a weekend when she humanized herself with an off-tune rendition of the national anthem, rhetorically kicked Dubya's ass by declaring that it would be the height of irresponsiblity for him to leave office with U.S. troops still stuck in Iraq, essentially passing his disaster on to the next president -- and that, as the presumptive next president -- she was "offended" by the mere possibility ... and when new polls showed her watering the garden with her Democratic and Republican opponnents. First, the poll: it's from Newsweek, and it shows Bush plummeting to still further depths following his sorry State of the Union speech, and Hillary rising, fast:
Jan. 27, 2007 - President George W. Bush concluded his annual State of the Union address this week with the words “the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right … and tonight that cause goes on.” Maybe so, but the state of the Bush administration is at its worst yet, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll. The president’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history—30 percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who’d prefer the GOP to remain in the White House. ...
Sen. Hillary Clinton has pumped up her lead over GOP Sen. John McCain since she formally announced she's running for President, a new poll shows. Clinton would defeat McCain - who has taken heat for defending President Bush's stance on the Iraq war - 50% to 44%, according to a Newsweek poll released yesterday.
A Newsweek survey conducted right before Clinton's Jan. 20 announcement had her leading McCain 48% to 47%.
Newsweek found freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would also beat McCain, 48% to 42%, and former veep nominee John Edwards would edge McCain by four points - within the survey's margin of error.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani would also lose to Clinton in a White House faceoff, although she bested the Republican by a slim 49% to 46%.
Giuliani lost to Obama by three points, but defeated Edwards in a one-point dead heat.
All three Democrats would crush Massachusetts Republican Mitt Romney, the survey found.
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics cautioned that the election is a long way off.
"All it means is that right now, the Republicans are in terrible shape," Sabato said.
"Right now, just about any Democrat could beat just about any Republican," he said. "This is more a measure of the fact that right now, Democrats are riding high. Too bad for them the election isn't next month."
Given a choice between Clinton and Edwards, Dems chose Clinton 62% to 29% as their party's standard bearer.
In a matchup with Obama, Clinton won 55% to 35%.
Ah ... that's better. Poll geeks can click here for the particulars.
I don't think this is curtains for Barack by any stretch -- he only has room to grow, and the real odd man out right now is our man Edwards, who only has Iowa to hang on to at the moment, and Hil is quickly moving in there, too. And speaking of same, Hillary was in Iowa over the weekend, singing her little Hillary heart out ... and badly ... to absolutely adorable effect:
First, a CBS News poll finds Democrats favor Hillary by a wide margin over Barack. No surprise there, since Mama is the Big Dog in the race. And as for Black respondents ... well ... they prefer Hillary too, by 51 percent to just 28 percent. Clearly, Obama has some work to do among African-Americans, who seem to be suspicious of his ... how to say ... lack of overt Blackcentrity...
Senator Chuck Hagel went OFF yesterday during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on a non-binding resolution on Bush's Iraq escalation strategy. Hagel was the only Republican on the panel to vote the resolution through to the full Senate, and he's not feeling his colleague's duplicity on the issue. Of the nine Republicans, I count six, including Hagel, who have expressed serious doubts about the Bush plan, and yet none would go on the record. Shameful. Watch Hagel's plow-down of his weak-kneed colleagues for yourself:
Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002, when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion? Have you read that resolution?
I have. It’s not quite the way it’s been framed by a lot of people, as a resolution to go to war. That’s not quite what the resolution said.
It said, “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.” In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.
But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not. Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn’t need that authority from Congress.
Which they seem to say about a lot of things. That’s right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president’s counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, “You have all the powers that you need.” So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, “Andy, I don’t think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?” So a few of us—Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I—were invited into discussions with the White House.
It’s incredible that you had to ask for that. It is incredible. That’s what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.
It wasn’t specific to Iraq? Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. I mean, is Central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.
They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere they wanted in the Middle East? Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up, and put our language in it.
But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do. Well, it did. I’m not defending our votes; I’m just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about “weapons of mass destruction” that this “madman dictator” Saddam Hussein has, and “our intelligence shows he’s got it,” and “he’s capable of weaponizing,” and so on.
And producing a National Intelligence Estimate that turned out to be doctored. Oh yeah. All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that’s what we were presented with. And I’m not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, “I don’t believe them.” But I was told by the president—we all were—that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.
You were told that personally? I remember specifically bringing it up with the president. I said, “This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us.”
Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father? Yep. He said, “That’s what we’re going to do.” But the more I look back on this, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, “Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don’t think there’s anything in there.” They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn’t been in there. We didn’t know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn’t do it! So to answer your question—Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.
I've said this before, but if this man does run for president, and if by some miracle he were to make it to the general, I would have serious thoughts about voting for a Republican for the first time ever.
Throwback cases on both sides of the racial divide: eight Black men faces charges in the shooting death of a police officer and other assorted crimes while they were members of the Black Liberation Army in the early 1970s ... and a Mississippi man thought to have been dead, is alive and well and under indictment for the murder of two Black teens in 1964.
Is Rudy Giuliani the Howard Dean of the 2008 presidential campaign ... or the Ross Perot? Meaning, will he burn bright in the GOP primary, only to flame out when voters get a load of his wife-swapping, negro-hating, pro-abortion, gay friendly, gun-not-so-friendly makeup? Or ... will he burn bright in the early going, only to drop out like a punk-ass beeyatch.
To the headlines!
From RawStory, proof that Rudy don't know diddly about foreign policy, specifically in Iraq. Giuliani stumbled on the softest of all possible interviews, outside of a tete a tete with the Bushbots at Fox "News" Channel: the velvet gloves of the Today Show. He fumbled a question on his support for Bush's "troop augmentation" (it will make Iraq perky!!!) and called Anbar province "Anwar" (maybe he's got crude oil on the brain ... mmmmmm... crude oillll.......) And then he added this:
GIULIANI: ... We can measure that. We can measure -- I think, it's nine sectors in Baghdad -- how much violence is there now? How much violence is there the week after, the next month, the month after. You know, I'm kind of familiar with that using the Comstat program in New York.
HOST: I was going to say to you, sir, what does a mayor know about what's going on in Iraq? On foreign policy?
GUILLIANI: I've spent a great deal of time talking to people about it. I've been on 91 foreign troops in the last five years. I've been in 35 different countries. Right before the speech on Iraq, I met with, maybe, ten or twelve people with differing viewpoints. People who wanted to pullout, generals who helped craft the strategy. So, you know, you try to learn as much as you can about these issues.
Yes... you do try, don't you...
How many months shall we guess before we're faced with video of the Giuliani scream...?
Meanwhile, the folks at Political have a piece up about the doubts being expressed by Giuliani friends about whether Uncle Rudy possesses the necessary seriousness to run for president:
Failed 2000 N.Y. Campaign Casts Shadow Over Giuliani's 2008 Ambition
By: Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith January 24, 2007 02:27 PM EST
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is finally scrambling to beat back a crippling perception that his bid for president isn't quite serious. But even as he begins to hire aides and consultants, many of his New York supporters and critics, as well as neutral observers, see a repeat of his half-hearted, unfinished 2000 campaign for Senate.
"At this moment in history I do not believe he's running for president; I just don't believe it," said Mike Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State. "I don't know of anyone who's gotten a call saying, 'I'm running, I need you to get behind me,' same as happened before."
"I'm having a real hard time believing the guy is taking it seriously," said a former Guiliani aide, who said that he would love to see him become president. "In 2000 there was this feeling that he didn't have to play by all the rules that little people have to play by, and I see that even more strongly now."
The question for this year's Republican primary is whether voters can expect the Giuliani of his first winning campaign in 1993 -- a studious, disciplined, hard-working candidate -- or the indecisive, disorganized, reluctant candidate of 2000, carried by spectacular public polling and national Republican hopes toward a confrontation with Hillary Rodham Clinton until he flamed out in May.
"Here's a dossier of confidential Giuliani campaign documents of which the campaign lost possession in early November. The documents appear to have been prepared by Giuliani's chief fundraiser, Anne Dickerson. Some personal information, largely cellular phone numbers, was redacted. To download the document, right click here and select Save Target As... See Ben Smith's blog for a guide to the document."
To many in New York, it's starting to look like 2000 all over again with Giuliani drawing the biggest headlines of late when an aide lost possession of a binder containing detailed fund-raising plans and worries that his personal and business life could scuttle his campaign; that 140-page dossier, first published in the New York Daily News, is available online today at Politico.com.
His aides declined to make him available for comment.
The Giuliani fame clock appears to be in full tick.
What ever happened to Bush's SOTU promise to get us to the Red Planet? It's been two long years, and I'm seriously disturbed that Mars seems to have dropped completely from his rhetoric...!
Anyway, without Mars, and lo, without "switchgrass," this year's State of the Union speech left me rather bored. (Martians shouldn't feel too badly. New Orleans didn't make the speech, either...)
Bush was conciliatory -- a new Bush, as it were. He gave a nice tribute to Mother, who sat behind him looking lovely -- but blinking at such a phenomenal rate that the contrast between her blinking, and Dick "The Robot" Cheney's tendency to whet his eyeballs only once every 15 minutes -- was actually disturbing. The prez also sent well wishes to the two incapacitated members of Congress -- something the vice president has probably consulted his voodoo dolls about nightly...
Bush offered a laundry list of Democratic sounding proposals -- 20 percent reduction in our dependence on foreign oil, a balanced federal budget, earmark reform, "comprehensive immigration reform" ... and without amnesty! (how to do, how to do???) ... and a massive federal tax subsidy to insurance companies paid for by taxpayers so that a handful of the 47 million uninsured can use a tax credit to buy crap insurance from Bush's donors ... oops, that was a Republican sounding proposal ...
Oh, and Bush said we're all in it together in Iraq. Goodie. Oh, and about that stuff about Iran plotting to arm our enemies in Iraq (which did make the speech,) Bushie may want to back order a copy of the L.A. Times.
He did introduce Dikembe Mutombo, who is no longer a citizen of the DRC, since he's now an American citizen. And he pointed out Wesley Autry, the guy who saved that other guy from getting run over by a train in New York City. Heart warming stuff, though tough to get in its entirety since I was literally falling asleep by then.
Sorry to sound so unserious, but a less than serious speech doesn't seem to merit much real blogthought. Not when I have to get up at 3 a.m. to troll through this stem winder on the morning show. So I'll leave you to the tender mercies of the Associated Press... surely they'll make sense of it. Oh, and one more thing: if this was the speech intended to get most Americans to tune back in to Mr. Bush and give him a fresh look, I wouldn't count on it moving the meter.
Jim Webb is doing his thing now. Gotta go. Here's the AP on Bush's Iraq challenge ... apparently even Norm Coleman isn't buying... (BTW as I predicted this morning, Webb got full TV coverage -- 8 broadcast and cable nets carried his response to Bush's speech. In case you didn't stay up for it, here's the speech. It's good stuff.
This morning on the radio show, James T and I discussed our theories about why with all of the Bush administration being eaten alive over missteps in Iraq, Condi Rice remains strangely unscathed. We speculated that it could be because she's seen as weak, and a mere reflection of her boss ... or because she has somehow insulated herself by staying out of the media's way ... ? My theory was that the administration was shielding Ms. Rice in order to preserve her political viability and popularity, just in case a very senior member of the administration was unable to fulfill his duties through the end of George W. Bush's term as president.
Lawyers Paint Libby as Sacrificial Lamb By Matt Apuzzo The Associated Press
Top White House officials tried to blame vice presidential aide "Scooter" Libby for the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity to protect President Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove, Libby's defense attorney said Tuesday as his perjury trial began.
I. Lewis Libby is accused of lying to FBI agents, who began investigating after syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed that a chief Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame.
When the leak investigation was launched, White House officials cleared Rove of wrongdoing but stopped short of doing so for Libby. Libby, who had been asked to counter Wilson's criticisms, felt betrayed and sought out his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, Wells said.
"They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb," attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling Libby's end of the conversation. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."
Rove was one of two sources for Novak's story. The other was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Nobody, including Rove and Armitage, has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of lying to investigators and obstructing the probe into the leak.
Cheney's notes from that meeting underscore Libby's concern, Wells said.
"Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder," the note said, according to Wells.
The description of the White House infighting was a rare glimpse into the secretive workings of Bush's inner circle. It also underscores how hectic and stressful the White House had become when the probe was launched.
By pointing the finger at Rove, whom he referred to as "the lifeblood of the Republican party," Wells sought to cast Libby as a scapegoat.
"He is an innocent man and he has been wrongly and unjustly and unfairly accused," Wells said.
Wait, wait, there's more ... take it away, David Corn:
And as the two legal teams began their courtroom battle, new information was disclosed about the leak affair, including the revelation that Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary at the time of the leak, had identified Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer to NBC News reporter David Gregory a week before the leak appeared in Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column, and that Fleischer, during the subsequent criminal investigation, took the Fifth Amendment and demanded (and received) immunity before testifying to Fitzgerald's' grand jury. Fleischer told the grand jury that he had learned about Valerie Wilson's CIA affiliation first from Libby and then from Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. (This directly implicated yet two more White House officials in the scandal.) Gregory, though, did not report the information, and he later declined to talk to Fitzgerald about his conversation with Fleischer. Fitzgerald never subpoenaed him. (In a response to an email from a colleague asking about today's disclosure, Gregory emailed, "I can't help you, sorry.") The first day of the trial also brought the news that after the Justice Department opened an investigation of the CIA leak in fall 2003, Cheney pressured the White House press office to make a statement clearing Libby of any wrongdoing....
By then, the "White House press officer" in question was one chubby, Scott McClellan, who apparently was the recipient of a hand written note from Cheney, instructing him to tell the White House press pool that Karl had nothing to do with the leak, despite the fact that Rove was the main source for at least one reporter, Matt Cooper.
The upshot here is that there apparently was a battle between the offices of the president and vice president over who would take the fall over the Plame leak, and the White House decided to throw Cheney's man off the bus, to keep Rove handy for the 2004 election -- besides, Cheney might be able to live without his brain, having had long experience living without a heart -- but Dubya? Shee-it, without his brain, he's downright catatonic.
So what were Libby and Cheney up to in the summer of 2003? More from Mr. Corn:
The case, Fitzgerald acknowledged, has been playing against a large backdrop: the war in Iraq and the controversy regarding the Bush administration's selling of the war. He also conceded that it grew out of the leak scandal and the question of who in the Bush administration had outed Valerie Wilson to reporters after Joseph Wilson publicly accused the White House of having twisted and misrepresented the prewar intelligence. But Fitzgerald attempted to focus the jury on a limited matter: several statements Libby made to the FBI and the grand jury about his role in the leak affair.
In those statements--made during two FBI interviews and two grand jury appearances--Libby said that though he had once possessed official information about Valerie Wilson's CIA employment, he had forgotten all about that, that he then heard about her CIA connection from reporters (mainly, Tim Russert of Meet the Press), and that he subsequently discussed this gossip (not official information) with other reporters. His explanation was essentially this: I forgot to remember what I had once known but had forgotten.
Fitzgerald vowed that he would demonstrate this was a pack of lies. He previewed evidence and testimony cited in the indictment and pretrial submissions that (according to Fitzgerald) shows that Libby in June and early July 2003 was an active gatherer of official (and classified) information on Joseph Wilson and his wife. Fitzgerald pointed to several witnesses who will testify that Libby requested information on the Wilsons from them when they were government officials: Marc Grossman, the No. 3 at the State Department, Robert Grenier, a CIA official, Craig Schmall, a CIA briefer, and Cathie Martin, a spokesperson for Cheney. (Fitzgerald said that Libby called Grenier out of meeting to receive information on the Wilsons from him.) He also noted that Libby, according to Libby's own notes, had learned from Cheney that Valerie Wilson worked at the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA. (This is a unit within the agency's clandestine operations directorate.)
And then Fitzgerald said that he would produce several witnesses to prove that Libby, after obtaining official information on the Wilsons, conveyed some of it to two reporters (Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time) and to the White House press secretary at the time, Ari Fleischer (with the warning the material was "hush-hush").
Libby's story to the FBI and the grand jury was that on July 10, 2003--four days after Joe Wilson (news, bio, voting record) had published an op-ed article noting he had inside information proving the administration had misrepresented the case for war--he had called Russert, that Russert had told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and that he (Libby) had believed that he was learning about her for the first time. (Libby testified that he was "taken aback" when he heard from Russert that Wilson's wife was a CIA official.) Yet, according to Fitzgerald, Libby had already discussed Valerie Wilson and her CIA affiliation with Fleischer on July 7 and with Miller on July 8. "You cannot learn something startling on Thursday that you were giving out on Monday and Tuesday," Fitzgerald declared. He charged that Libby had concocted the Russert tale to "wipe out" the fact that Libby had earlier been told about Valerie Wilson by Cheney. "This is not a case about bad memory," he maintained. Libby, he said, had been caught in a cover-up.
A diagram of Fitzgerald's case would be a straight line: Libby sought official information, he shared this classified material with reporters, he then made up a story to hide all this from investigators. To get a graphic representation of Well's argument, take a large pot of spaghetti--with plenty of sauce--and hurl it against the wall. Then look at the wall. ...
And what's it all about ... Libby?
...Because the CIA had screwed up the prewar intelligence, Wells suggested, Libby, acting on orders from Cheney and Bush, was trying to combat the popular perception--fueled by Wilson--that the White House had cooked the books on the way to war. After the criminal investigation began, Wells continued, the White House was willing to toss Libby to the wolves because Rove, the mastermind of the GOP, was too valuable to lose.
And so Rove worked like hell to keep from getting indicted, and after five trips to the grand jury, he proffered something that convinced Fitzgerald to back off. No such luck for Louis, who is now experiencing the burn of that ole' meat grinder.
Watch this trial carefully. I think it very well could end with a bang: a shot heard round the capitol as Cheney gets sucked deeper and deeper into the grinder with his former top intel guy, and suddenly, Tricky Dick needs to spend more time with his family.
Then Bushie can woo Southern Methodist with something shiny and new for his now sketchy presidential library -- the first African-American woman vice president.
So Bush will try to help himself out tonight during the State of the Union. As long as he doesn't try to preempt American Idol, at least he won't go to 15 percent... at least he hopes not... Look for the Democrats to hold back -- way back -- on the applause, and maybe the Republicans, too.
Meanwhile, Bush prepares to deplete our European theater of 8,500 troops.
Leave it to the right to even screw up a smear. Insight Magazine's fairy tale that Barack Obama attended a Muslim "madrassa" school when he was but 6 years old has traversed the planes of right wing hackery, sling-shotting from Glen Beck's wacky world of low-rated cable TV (and high-rated radio), to the ultimate dumping ground for factually-sketchy slander against Democrats: Fox "News" Channel.
Well. That would be all well and good if the story was actually true. Here's the scoop from ThinkProgress:
Last week, Fox News and other Rupert Murdoch outlets amplified a right-wing report alleging that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attended an Islamic “madrassa” school as a 6-year-old child. One Fox News caller questioned whether Obama’s schooling means that “maybe he doesn’t consider terrorists the enemy.” Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade responded, “Well, we’ll see about that.”
So what is a news organization to do when they want to "see about that?" It's called simple reportage. And CNN went one better:
Commenting on this report today, Wolf Blitzer said that CNN had done “what any serious news organization is supposed to do in this kind of a situation”: actually investigate and learn the facts. CNN’s Senior International Correspondent John Vause filed a report from Indonesia.
He visited the Basuki school, which Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.
"This is a public school. We don't focus on religion," Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the Basuki school, told Vause. "In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."
Vause reported he saw boys and girls dressed in neat school uniforms playing outside the school, while teachers were dressed in Western-style clothes.
"I came here to Barack Obama's elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa ... like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Vause said on the "Situation Room" Monday. "I've been to those madrassas in Pakistan ... this school is nothing like that."
Vause also interviewed one of Obama's Basuki classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, who claims that not a lot has changed at the school since the two men were pupils. Insight reported that Obama's political opponents believed the school promoted Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, "and are seeking to prove it."
"It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."
The Obama aide described Fox News' broadcasting of the Insight story "appallingly irresponsible."
The Insight article even went to lowbrow as to accuse, not their own hackery, but Hillary Clinton's camp of cooking up the Obamarassa story, something Clinton's camp has called total junk (consider the source.) I mean, why take the credit for such a scummy story when you can pass the blame onto someone else?
Oh, and one other thing: if Barack Obama HAD attended a madrassa school at 6 years old, he'd be one hell of a terrorist prodigy, since madrassas are kind of like college -- they're for adults. Funny thing, that.
Shawn Hornbeck's biological father was ... wait for it ... a convicted sex offender. Will this just stop already?
And Michael Devlin finally opens his fetid, deranged mouth, telling the New York Post:
January 21, 2007 -- UNION, Mo. - The hulking pizza manager accused of snatching two boys in Missouri is so ashamed of his arrest, he can't face his own mom and dad. "I don't know how I'm going to explain myself to my parents," said Michael Devlin, who is accused of kidnapping Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, in an exclusive interview with The Post.
"It's much easier talking to a stranger about these things than your own parents."
Devlin agreed to two 15-minute interviews in a holding area at the Franklin County jail here, during which he talked about his lack of interest in sex, his passion for poker and video games, the amputation of his toes and his solitary confinement in a 10-by-7 foot cell.
But he refused to talk about the criminal charges he's facing, squinting his eyes and fidgeting in his chair when asked about the four years he allegedly held Shawn captive at his apartment in Kirkwood, Mo., and his alleged snatching of Ownby on Jan. 8.
"I will not discuss anything related to the case," he said.
Devlin, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 300 pounds, came out in an orange prison jumpsuit for both interviews.
He said he has had no visitors other than his lawyers despite having a large family - five siblings and his parents, who adopted him and three of his brothers - nearby.
Life, he said, had been good for him over the last four years, during which he allegedly forced Hornbeck to live with him by threatening to kill the teen and his family if he fled.
"I guess I was relatively happy," he said.
During the first sit-down on Friday, Devlin appeared red-faced and bleary-eyed and seemed downcast.
"I feel nothing," he said. "I hide my emotions from other people. I hide the way I feel."
He declined to answer if he's ever had a girlfriend but said he doesn't care about romantic relationships. "I was never really interested in that," he said. Asked if he was attracted to women, Devlin said, "I can't talk about that because it has to do with the case." ...
Read the rest if you'd like, and there is much more, with Devlin talking about his family life, his love of video games, and the eventuality of his being beaten up or assaulted by other inmates ... by clicking here.
One suggestion in the piece is that Shawn may have pacified Devlin, who is seriously oddball, by playing video games with him:
Video games became a pastime. He said his favorite was "Final Fantasy," an involved role-playing game developed in Japan in the 1980s.
If he weren't in jail, he said, "I'd be in front of my computer screen playing 'Final Fantasy XI,' " he said.
"I like 'Final Fantasy' because it has a network that can connect to people all over the world, from Europe to Japan."
Police say Devlin and Shawn were avid video-game players and may have spent hours playing games together.
China faced a barrage of international condemnation from London to Canberra yesterday after it was revealed that it had launched a missile attack on an ageing weather satellite, a test that threatened to open a "Star Wars" space race.
Formal protests were lodged with the Beijing government, accompanied by expressions of concern from world leaders, including Tony Blair. The Bush administration is privately seething over the event and is believed to be preparing to turn the incident into a major diplomatic spat.
he concern in the US is that the satellite-killing missile test - said by the US national security council to have been carried out on January 11 - demonstrated China has the capability to knock out its military satellite system, which the Pentagon depends on for navigation and surveillance. American military and diplomatic analysts said a Chinese attack on about 40 to 50 satellites in low orbit round the world would leave the country's military blinded within a matter of hours.
But others, more sceptical about US policy, insist China had a right to challenge the US's effective monopoly of space. They noted that Beijing has repeatedly pressed for the US to sign agreements outlawing arms in space, overtures Washington has repeatedly rejected.
Australia, the US, Canada and Japan have expressed concern at the Chinese test, in which a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile knocked out an ageing Chinese weather satellite about 865km above the earth by slamming into it.
In Canberra, China's ambassador to Australia, Madame Fu Ying, was called in to see Foreign Affairs officials over the January 11 test.
"The US believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese."
Right, but again, the U.S. is also the power that has consistently rejected U.N. and Chinese attempts to get a treaty that would have all the leading powers pledging not to weaponize space. Nice move, if your intention is ... wait for it ... to be the first ones to weaponize space. Of course, now, China has beaten us to the punch, it seems.
n 1967, as humanity made great leaps and bounds into outer space, political leaders embraced the notion of the peaceful use of outer space in negotiating the Outer Space Treaty, which affirmed "the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes" and provided that "The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind."
However, the treaty did not specifically ban the military use of outer space, other than the placing of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in space. ...
... n January 2001 The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Managament and Organisation, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, now US Secretary of Defense, recommended that "the US Government should vigorously pursue the capabilities called for in the National Space Policy to ensure that the President will have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attack on US interests."
Even before the Commission had been established, the US was conducting research and development in anti-satellite weapons, space based earth-strike weapons, and deployment of support systems. In preparation for the deployment of anti-satellite weapons, for example, the US has deployed a Space Surveillance Network which detects, tracks, identifies and catalogs all space objects in case the US finds it "necessary to disrupt, degrade, deny or destroy enemy space capabilities in future conflicts"
The US Space Command's plans for the development of space-based and space directed weapons are laid out in its 1998 Long Range Plan. The integrated system of surveillance, navigation, communication, and attack capabilities are being developed in order to "protect military and commercial national interests and investment in space," and "to deny others the use of space, if required." ...
And now to that rejection:
The United Nations has adopted a number of resolutions calling for negotiations to prevent an arms race in outer space. China has proposed the establishment of an ad hoc committee in the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate a treaty prohibiting the weaponisation of outer space.
Other countries, including Pakistan, have supported the proposal, noting that there are plans for space weaponisation, including elements of Ballistic Missile Defense programs, and that prevention of an arms race in outer space through an agreed treaty would be preferable to trying to pull back such developments after they occurred.
The CD, which functions by consensus, has been unable to move forward on China's proposal because of the opposition of some countries, primarily the US which claims that there is not an arms race in outer space and thus there is no need for such negotiations.
No need, indeed.
By the way, since there is no treaty, thanks to the U.S., China has broken no international laws. Happy weekend!
Sick, misanthropic bastards like Bill O'Reilly and fact-challenged morons like this guy should be slapped for insinuating that the abducted Missouri boy, Shawn Hornbeck, who was held by a wacko named Michael Devlin for for years, either liked his circumstances as an abductee, or ran away from home and stayed with Devlin on purpose. The latest news, that he talked to a police officer about a stolen bike, 10 months into his ordeal, and that he made friends and even went to a school dance, are titilating to a public hungry to know the gory details of his captivity, but as most psychologists will tell you, they are not dispositive.
It seems to me that the most likely scenario is the obvious one: Shawn, who after all was just an 11 year old child when he was taken at gunpoint. was terrified of his captor as he told Oprah, not to mention psychologically brutalized and so he complied with him completely, in order to survive. It seems likely that Devlin not only had a gun, he also had abducted, probably molested and maybe even killed, children before. And then there was the other kind of terror he likely used. This chilling slip by a Missouri Sheriff tells a lot:
"In cases like these, there might be a possibility that there might be other kids involved," Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke told a news conference.
Franklin County is home to Ben Ownby, 13, one of the boys Devlin is accused of kidnapping.
Toelke described Devlin, who will be arraigned today, as a sex offender but then took it back.
"People who commit these crimes don't just wake up one day and decide to be a sex offender," he said.
But in the next breath, the sheriff said he didn't have information that the 300-pound pizzeria manager was a sex offender. ...
But he most likely is, and maybe even a murderous one.
And if that's true, it's also likely that the day that police stumbled on that truck, and discovered Ben Ownby in that apartment, was the luckiest day of Shawn Hornbeck's life. It seems obvious that his captor was drawn to boys around 11 years old, and since Shawn was now a considerably bigger, older teen, he was looking to "replace" him with Ben Ownby. And that can only mean one thing: Shawn Hornbeck probably didn't have long to live. Scroll down to the second headline in this report:
The captor who held Shawn Hornbeck for more than four years kept him from fleeing by threatening to kill the boy and his entire family, investigators said Monday.
That helps explain why Shawn, 15, freed Friday when police tracked a second kidnapped boy to an apartment in Kirkwood, did not seize ample opportunities to run or summon help, according to the investigators....
Officials have determined that Shawn and Ben both were grabbed off the street and prevented from leaving Devlin's vehicle. And while all three were wired into the Internet and involved in computer games, there is no evidence of prior contact between Devlin and either boy, according to investigators.
Investigators have found no evidence that Devlin abducted any other children, sources said. But they are poring over computer equipment and videotapes obtained in a weekend search of his apartment, looking for evidence in Ben and Shawn's cases and any indication of other victims.
Investigators say they are puzzled that Devlin never has been accused of lesser offenses, which tend to be found among people who work their way up the crime ladder to child abduction.
Also on Monday, Washington County Sheriff Kevin Schroeder said Devlin owned a piece of vacant property there, about 20 minutes from where Shawn was kidnapped in the rural community of Richwoods.
Cue the backhoes...
All the speculation about him should end. What this kid needs is support -- emotional, psychological and financial. He's going to need to catch up on four years of school, four years with his family, and create new memories to replace what have to be horrible ones -- and mundane ones -- he was likely forced to adjust to a situation he didn't create, and to his credit, he seems to have done so. That said, his parents will have to keep a close eye on this young man, and pray that he can still become a well adjusted adult, after several years of loving care and some semblance of a normal life.
There are a lot of questions here. Why didn't anyone around "Shawn Devlin" act on what seemed to be suspicions that he at least looked like Shawn Hornbeck? Why didn't his friends tell their parents? If they did, why didn't their parents tell police? This case was apparently huge in that part of Missouri, yet no one seemed to question what was apparent, right in front of them? Even Devilin's boss apparently became suspicious of him eventually, and to his credit, he did talk to a friend on the police force. But the boss was the exception, and that's the real tragedy here; in addition to the prurience of so many people about what these two boys went through, and the insensitivity of a Bill O'Reilly (who should, as Keith Olbermann said, be immediately pushed off the public stage,) there is this paralysis that inflicts all of us -- an unwillingness to get involved, which allows people like Michael Devlin to do the evil things they do.
But even that is 20/20 hindsight. Those folks in Missouri could have been any of us.
Anyway, give to the Shawn Hornbeck foundation here. I'm not sure if there's a fund for Ben Ownby, but there should be, and if I find it, I'll link to it, too.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. military helicopter crashed Saturday northeast of Baghdad, killing all 13 people on board, a new blow to American efforts in Iraq as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for a major security operation to pacify the capital and surrounding areas.
The military said the crash was under investigation. The brief U.S. statement lacked the customary comment that the aircraft was not shot down, indicating it may have come under fire by insurgents.
The helicopter was carrying 13 passengers and crew members and all were killed, it said. No further details were released, including the exact location of the crash.
The violent Diyala province sits northeast of Baghdad, and U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling Sunni insurgents and Shiite militia forces around its main city of Baqouba for months.
Separately, the military also announced the deaths of two American soldiers and a Marine.
When intelligent, thoughtful, good men like Mark Daily die in Iraq, wasting their lives and talent for an idealistic goal that is not shared by the greedy, cynical, war profiteers who sent them there, non-fighting, blowhard righties, who themselves would never, ever volunteer or serve, and who continue to hero worship a president and vice president who didn't bother to serve when it was their turn, applaud.
I don't think I will ever understand these people.
R.I.P. Second Lieutenant Daily. I applaud your service and your ideals, but am deeply saddened by the waste of your life and the loss to your loved ones.
The junior Senator from New York makes it official on the eve of the Sunday shows (video here), forcing a pause in the Obama media freight train. She leads the latest ABC-WaPo poll, and will continue to crush the rest of the field in terms of fundraising, name I.D. and celebrity status.
Of course, nervous Nelly Dems will continue to quake and ask the question, "can she win?" They're worried about her polarization factor, the woman factor, and of course, the Clinton sex scandal factor. But here's the thing: everybody knows everything there probably is to know about the Clintons -- good and bad. Americans have already taken it into account. That means that Hillary can only do one of two things, when it comes to the non-traditional, general election audiences she needs to woo: she can either confirm their worst suspicions about her (that she's a social climbing shrew who let her hubby pork another woman and get away with it so she could fulfill her own, venemous and strangely male ambitions) ... or, she can pleasantly surprise them, the way she has done with Republican-leaning upstate New Yorkers and Republican members of the Senate. My bet is that Hillary has the discipline and the skills to do the latter. When people in the flyover states get a good, first hand look at her, I think most will say to themselves, "why she ain't so bad..." and compared to the nitwit in the Oval Office now, she's damned refreshing.
So can Hillary win? Of course she can. Presidential politics is about money, marketing and media control. She can raise more money than God, she has 100 percent first name-only name recognition, and as long as she doesn't make a mistake, she can deny the MSM the more obvious shots at her. And as for being polarizing, there is no single political figure more polarizing than President George W. Bush, and I think he won in 2004.
As for her challengers, Clinton may have to split the Black vote with Edwards and even more so with Obama (so long as most Blacks don't decide he isn't steeped enough in the old civil rights movement, ergo not "Black enough..." but she will retain the ability to win that audience back once she wins the primary -- and I think the odds right now favor her doing just that, with Obama and Edwards finishing a strong second and a less strong than expected third, respectively.
And then, if she faces Mr. Sellout, John McCain, I think she wins. If it's Mr. Fascist, Rudy Giuliani, it will be her job to redefine him as the Black man-hating, wife swapping authoritarian that he is. And then she beats him. And let's keep it real -- there are no other serious Republican candidates (sorry, Newt.)
Get ready to live under the rule of Mother (Nancy Pelosi) AND Mom, Republicans. It's gonna be a hell of a next ten years.
Update ... so, what do the Reds think? Here's one scintillating analysis (short version: Hillary steals the Sunday shows and manipulates the media... film at 11...)
Fidel at death's door, along with U.S. Latin America policy
As Fidel Castro's health continues to decline, the inevitable questions of what will happen when the Cuban dictator finally kicks the bucket -- of health failure, by the way, and not at the hands of the American government, who have been out to get him for four decades -- are rushing to the forefront.
The U.S. military is making plans to handle a possible mass exodus from the island, by housing refugees on Guantanamo Bay, which we continue, oddly, to lease from the hated Castro regime (the lease predates the dictator by nearly 60 years).
Meanwhile, everyone is watching the Miami street, which will erupt in celebration (probably led by Congresswoman Ros Lehtinen, who would have to console herself that Castro wasn't assassinated by pondering the possibile property acquisitions that could be hers if the price is right, and the Cubans decide to go back to the good old days of mob controlled casinos and American sugar plantations...) and that could shut down Miami, which is something like 60 percent Cuban-American...
Added to all this drama is the trial of an anti-Castro militant (were he of Middle Eastern origin, we'd call him a terrorist) Luis Posada, who has been known to blow up an Havana disco or two in search of Libertad! for his country. A witness against him in his trial for sneaking into the U.S. with two other banditos, recently found a pipe bomb under his truck.
Ah, seems the exile community hasn't grown all that much since the days of Orlando Bosch (the 1978 Cuban airline bomber who was pardoned by Pappy Bush in 1990 at the behest of his golden boy, Jeb) ... Posada has strong support in the militant wing of the exile community, at least when it's not fighting over children's school books...
As you probably can tell, I see no good guys in the Cuba issue. Castro is a dictator, straight up, no chaser. He has lorded over that country simply because he wishes to, for far too long, under the typical leftista guise of "having to remain" as the shepherd for his people, who after all, cannot practice proper socialismo on their own (after all, who can?) But American (and Cuban exile) designs on that island are hardly stemming from pure hearts or clean motives. The U.S. wants back its private plantations and casinos, and would love to control the natural resources of that island, as we did before the revolution (hellooooo, Big Sugar!) And the more "Spaniard" of the exiles, many of whom fled the island and left their rich haciendas behind, with the full intention of returning someday to claim their property from the great unwashed (their former servants) who live in the mansions now, cut up into apartments) are looking to regain ownership and domination of the "negritos."
Throw in the nasty tactics of the exile militants over the years, which include real life terrorism against any Cuban who dares not support the counter-revolution, and it becomes clear that in the case of Cuba, there is no high ground.
And then, there's the fact that Cuba is not some isolated Socialist outpost. It now has friends -- countries that the U.S. once pushed rightward but which are now solidly leftist and anti-US: Nicaragua (which has back Manuel Noriega -- sorry, Olly North, Venezuela, whose president calls our president the devil, plus Argentina, Chile, most recently Bolivia, and on and on... (When historians study the Bush presidency, the debacle in Iraq will dominate, but a proper sub-headline will be how this president, after his father's pretty good strides in the region, lost Latin America... through a combination of bullying over Iraq, and benign neglect.)
This leftist Latin world has embraced Cuba and Fidelism, and they will continue to prop up a socialist government even if it's run by the possibly weaker Raul, encouraging even a new-looking Havana regime to maintain its anti-U.S. positioning.
With all this in the mix, the outcome for the U.S. can't be good, even with the hated Fidel gone.
When is Fox News going to finally grow a pair and fire this horse's ass? True crime blogger Steve Huff tears O'Reilly a new one over his sick suggestions in the Shawn Hornbeck kidnapping.
Related: the bizarre Internet trail apparently left either by Shawn himself in hopes of being found (which this in particular may be an example of ...) or worse, by that sicko who took him and Ben Ownsby, possibly in hopes of luring other victims. This case is so awful, it's tough to even read about it. And hopefully, the family will be able to get off TV and take care of their son. Ditto for the family of the other young man, who fortunately did not have to endure years of god knows what at the hands of that monster. I don't believe in the death penalty, but for someone like this, I'm thinking "general population" with the worst of the worst...
AG "Torquemada" Gonzales says, um ... about that NSA spying without a warrant thing ... ways-out...Although some are asking what exactly has changed... well, here's one thing, with new management in town, the Bushies are apparently in retreat, at least in part:
Under pressure from Congress and the courts, Bush in the past six months has closed secret overseas CIA prisons, transferred previously unidentified detainees to regular military custody, negotiated congressional approval for tribunals to try foreign terrorism suspects and accepted at least some regulation of how harshly such prisoners could be interrogated.
Bush has hardly surrendered his effort to broadly define the commander in chief's authority to wage war in the modern era. Just last weekend, he and Vice President Cheney told Congress that it has no business trying to stop the president from sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq. But in other ways, Bush has engaged in a series of strategic fallbacks intended to preserve what authority he can while fending off escalating political and constitutional challenges.
"You can only be at odds with two-thirds of the people on a limited number of issues," said Jack Quinn, who was White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. "He has his back to the wall. He really has depleted his political capital and he simply can't afford to be at odds with most of us on a number of issues. He is conserving what limited political capital he has to see through this final effort on which he's embarked in Iraq."
Bush has backed off other confrontations with the new Democratic Congress as well, even as they square off over Iraq. He gave up efforts to confirm John R. Bolton to be permanent ambassador to the United Nations, offered qualified support for a Democratic move to raise the minimum wage, endorsed a Democratic goal of balancing the budget by 2012 and withdrew the nominations of four would-be judges bitterly opposed by Democrats.
And in another version of the same song here, comes the suggestion that Bush's big push for power may trigger the law of unintended consequences:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — The Bush administration’s abrupt abandonment on Wednesday of its program to eavesdrop inside the United States without court approval is the latest in a series of concessions to Congress, the courts and public opinion that have dismantled major elements of its strategy to counter the terrorist threat.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, President Bush asserted sweeping powers to conduct the hunt for operatives of Al Qaeda, the detention of suspects and their interrogation to uncover the next plot. But facing no new attack to justify emergency measures, as well as a series of losses in the courts and finally the Democratic sweep of the November election, Mr. Bush has had to retreat across the board.
“I think there’s no question that both politically and legally, the president has been chastened,” said Douglas W. Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University and generally a supporter of the administration’s interpretation of executive power.
Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of Yale Law School and a critic of the administration’s legal theories, said the president’s strategy might have provoked so strong a judicial and Congressional rebuff that it would ultimately accomplish the opposite of his goal. “I think historians will see it as an exorbitant and extreme theory of executive power that ended up weakening the presidency,” Mr. Koh said.
Welcome to the new world order, where the first branch of government has actual power and authority to check a runaway executive... actually, welcome to the old world order...
And while we're at TPMM, let's see what Arlen Specter has to say about his role in giving Bush more power...
Remember the Freedom Fries guy? He's making a bid to halt a Bush administration push for war with Iran.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is mocking the Bush administration again, saying Iran is ready to rumble...
The Missouri sicko pleads not guilty... meanwhile Missouri police now suspect him in the kidnaping of a third boy, who has never been heard from since... to heighten the creepy, the third missing boy, who disappeared back in 1991, reportedly bears a striking resemblance to Sean Hornbeck.
The I heart Hagel love-fest continues, as Hagel let's Dubya know, "This is not a monarchy, bitch..." okay, he didn't say the bitch part. But Hagel has co-sponsored a non-binding resolution in the Senate (with Joe Biden and Carl Levin) expressing disapproval of Bush's surge plan. (Of course, the non-binding part is a bit wimpy, given Hillary's new gambit to put teeth into Congressional oversight of the war by capping the number of American troops and putting stricter requirements on the money, and John Edwards calls any claim by Congress that they can do no better, total horse shit ... okay, he didn't say horse shit...) Meanwhile, Hillary's backing Hagel to the hilt, even as she pushes her own plan. (Another smart move.)
So who will win the showdown: Congressional Dems and their Republican allies, or the White House? I wouldn't bet on Bush right about now... even if he manages to begin his injection of additional troops, he will do so with the world knowing he lacks the confidence of the American people, and the Congress, and that will only speed the exit -- which is already underway -- by the so-called "coalition of the willing."
WASHINGTON - The United States should cap the number of troops in Iraq, while increasing American forces in Afghanistan, Sen. Hillary Rodham said Wednesday.
Clinton, the expected front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, was quick to seize the spotlight the day after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama took a major step toward entering the race.
Appearing on network television and radio shows to discuss her recent trip to Iraq, the New York senator said she opposes President Bush's plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq and favors redeploying troops out of Baghdad and eventually Iraq. She said she also favors conditioning economic aid to the Iraqi government's progress in meeting certain political goals.
Now, here's the pivot:
"The Bush administration has frankly failed to put any leverage on this government," Clinton told CBS "The Early Show." But she sidestepped questions on whether she would vote to block funding for Bush's troop increase.
So Hillary maintains a safe distance from the left, while positioning herself to the left of John McCain. Will it help stop the erosion in her base support (which, by itself, can do nothing to stop the Clinton juggernaut)? Well, let's dig a little bit deeper into that thar' pivot:
Sen Hillary Clinton said the US should cut funding for Iraq and its military if Iraq's leaders fail to give the minority Sunnis a greater role in government.
Clinton, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, also said she opposed President George W Bush's plan to add 21,500 US troops to Iraq, in part because it would siphon off US military strength from Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents have been intensifying their attacks.
'He's taking troops away from Afghanistan, where I think we need to be putting more troops, and sending them to Iraq on a mission that I think has a very limited, if any, chance for success,' the New York senator said on NBC's 'Today' show.
Clinton, who visited Baghdad and Kabul last week, said previous attempts to cajole Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim leaders to compromise with the Sunni Muslims have failed.
'I don't think we should continue to fund the protection for the Iraqi government leaders, or for the training and equipping of their army, unless they meet certain conditions, including making the political compromises that have been called for now for more than two years,' she said.
So Hill's still the Iron Lady -- for the concept of fighting the "war on terror," but arguing that it's mainly in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and just ever so cleverly against the increasingly obviously sectarian and corrupt Iraqi government (that we installed).
A senior Defense Department official who broke with Pentagon policy on whether it's honorable for private lawyers to provide no-charge services to Guantánamo captives drew new condemnation Tuesday and even calls for his dismissal.
Charles ''Cully'' Stimson, deputy assistant secretary for defense for detainee affairs, has sparked a firestorm of anger, from Capitol Hill to America's law schools to even conservative quarters.
He told a Washington, D.C., Beltway radio station last week that American corporations should boycott leading U.S. law firms that provide pro-bono service at the prison camps in the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania condemned Stimson's remarks on the floor of the Senate, where he until recently served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
''When lawyers undertake the representation of individuals in unpopular causes, they are entitled to praise, not criticism,'' said Specter, echoing an earlier condemnation by the new committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Stimson had used the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the offshore detention center to offer up -- live, on the radio -- a list of prestigious law firms whose attorneys are providing pro-bono legal representation to captives at the U.S. Navy Base.
He called it ''shocking'' and said corporate leaders should choose between those firms and others whose attorneys do not offer free-of-charge services to some of the 395 men and teens held in Cuba as so-called enemy combatants.
As of Tuesday, nearly 140 law school deans had signed an Internet petition -- which can be found at http://www.law.yale.edu/news/4055.htm -- declaring themselves ''appalled'' by the remarks of a fellow lawyer.
''In a free and democratic society, government officials should not encourage intimidation of or retaliation against lawyers who are fulfilling their pro bono obligations,'' the petition said.
Those who signed included Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School, Elena Kagen of Harvard Law School and Dennis O. Lynch of the University of Miami's School of Law. ...
And that ain't all...
The Pentagon's senior spokesman, Bryan Whitman, on Friday night distanced the Defense Department from Stimson's remarks, saying they ``do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership.''
Now some critics are calling for the dismissal of Stimson, 43, a former federal prosecutor who is the second Bush administration appointee to run a specially created division known as Detainee Affairs.
''I believe the man should be fired,'' wrote David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobby, in a guest column in The Hill newspaper in Washington.
He called Stimson's remarks ``a blatant attempt to threaten the law firms providing the representation to back off and urging their corporate clients to seek representation elsewhere if the firms fail to do so.''
Keene also said he believed most Guantánamo captives were guilty of something.
Yet, he wrote, ``Without lawyers, the innocent as well as the guilty might end up behind bars and our jails and prisons might come to resemble the hellholes depicted in some old movies showing Southern prisons of the '40s and '50s.''...
And that's just the conservatives... More approbrium of the bloggy sort here.
Two more hangings in Baghdad ... including one with a severed head. Here are the gory details:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq hanged two aides to Saddam Hussein before dawn on Monday but government efforts to avoid a repeat of uproar over the ousted leader's rowdy execution were thwarted when his half-brother's head was severed by the noose.
Many of the government's Shi'ite Muslim supporters rejoiced at the death of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam's once feared intelligence chief who was accused of sending people to death in a meat grinder. But voices in Iraq's Sunni Arab minority saw the decapitation as a deliberate sectarian act of revenge.
Government spokesmen said the severing of Barzan's head was a rare hangman's blunder. Critics said it may have been partly a result of Barzan's illness with cancer.
Officials showed journalists film of Barzan and former judge Awad Hamed al-Bander standing side by side in orange jumpsuits on the scaffold, appearing pale and trembling with fear as the hangmen placed black hoods over their heads.
As the two trap doors swung open, the force of the rope jerked Bander's head off. The head fell to the floor next to his body in a pool of blood as Bander's corpse swung above it.
The officials said they had decided not to distribute any part of the film to the public -- unlike footage shown of Saddam standing on the gallows.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters the hanging of the two men was "an Iraqi decision, an Iraqi execution." But some countries in the European Union, to which Iraq is looking for economic aid, expressed disgust. The United Nations had appealed for mercy.
The government film was silent but officials said there was no disturbance in the execution chamber like the taunting that occurred at Saddam's hanging. The chamber was apparently the same one where Saddam was hanged on December 30.
Apparently, Iraqi officials had made all of the witnesses sign documents pledging to behave with a sense of decorum. How nice.
Meanwhile, Jawa has new details ... and new pics ... on the new video of Saddam's lynch-like hanging. By the way, this is what the aftermath of a hanging looks like, when the head doesn't pop off:
Also courtesy of Jawa (long time, no link...) is a link to ye old Saddam fellow travelers hanging coverage. It oughta make you proud to be an American... where we make the world safe for sectarian lynching.
More on the continued Iraqi parade of carnage and indignity from the BBC
Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, who grew up in an almost all-white community of 4,000 on the West Coast, got a lesson in diversity in a Philadelphia airport right after enlisting in June 1973.
The first two friends he made in the Army were Joe Gonzales, a Hispanic from New Mexico, and T.C. Collins, a black soldier from East Los Angeles. The three recruits initially were leery of each other.
“Needless to say, the three of us — a Hispanic, a black and a white guy — bonded to share mutual hardship from being soldiers,” Horst said.
Horst spoke to an audience of more than 450 people at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club on Thursday. The occasion was the Martin Luther King Jr. observance entitled “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
The 18th Airborne Corps Equal Opportunity/Human Relations Office sponsored the event.
Nowadays, Horst is a one-star general and deputy commanding general of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps. He said he still keeps in touch with his two friends.
“I’m proud to tell you the armed services and the United States Army have made great strides in recognizing Doctor King’s vision,” he said. “But we are not there yet.”
Statistics for 2005 show the U.S. armed forces had 39.2 percent minority members, including blacks, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and Pacific Islanders.
“Yet, we still have a long way to go,” Horst said. “It would give me no greater pleasure to stand here this morning and tell you that we have achieved Doctor King’s vision, we have achieved Doctor King’s goals, that racism and inequality has disappeared.”
Horst urged members of the audience to stay safe as Fort Bragg embarks on a four-day weekend.
“I would ask each of you at some time during this long weekend to stop and reflect what Doctor King’s teaching means in your life,” he said. ...
Here's wishing a safe and good day to all those in harm's way.
Yet another conservative confronts the hard truth about Iraq, about his principles, and about President Bush, courtesy of Glen Greehwald:
Rod Dreher is as conservative as it gets -- a contributor to National Review and the Corner, a current columnist for The Dallas Morning News, a self-described "practicing Christian and political conservative."
Today, Dreher has an extraordinary (oral) essay at NPR in which he recounts how the conduct of President Bush (for whom he voted twice) in the Iraq War (which he supported) is causing him to question, really to abandon, the core political beliefs he has held since childhood. ...
As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool's errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.
But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.
In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.
The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government's conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.
I turn 40 next month -- middle aged at last -- a time of discovering limits, finitude. I expected that. But what I did not expect was to see the limits of finitude of American power revealed so painfully.
I did not expect Vietnam.
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.
I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.
On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men, whom their father once believed in, did to this country? Heavy thoughts for someone who is still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.
Welcome to the world the neocons have made.
Meanwhile, on 60 Minutes tomorrow, Bush is expected to say that no matter what Congress says or does, no matter how many Americans, including conservatives like Dreher, abandon him, his surge will go forward. Damn the torpedoes, and the loss of life that's to come. Meanwhile, those who will truly pay the price for Mr. Bush's stupidity and obstinance, prepare for Dubya's last stand in Baghdad.
And when it comes to choosing a top general to run his end of the war, Mr. Maliki goes his own way ...
Zbigniew Brzezinski points out the five flaws in Bush's escalation plan. My question: there are only five?
BTW, speaking of our oil wars... if oil is below $52 a barrel, why am I still paying $2.32 a gallon for regular?
And remember when President Clinton "bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan" and tried to hit Osama bin Laden and didn't get him? The right called it a pin prick, or dropping bombs on a camel's butt (so did Condi, by the way...) So ... um ... with U.S. aircraft strafing Somalia, and U.S. forces on the ground there, too, and failing, utterly, to get their man... shouldn't we say the same thing?
FORT BENNING, Ga., Jan. 11 -- The pictures were just what the White House wanted: A teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to a slain war hero in the East Room, then flying here to join the chow line with camouflage-clad soldiers as some of them prepare to return to Iraq.
There are few places the president could go for an unreservedly enthusiastic reception the day after unveiling his decision to order 21,500 more troops to Iraq. A military base has usually been a reliable backdrop for the White House, and so Bush aides chose this venerable Army installation in western Georgia to promote his revised strategy to the nation while his Cabinet secretaries tried to sell it on Capitol Hill.
Assuring there would be no discordant notes here, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the base commander, banned the 300 soldiers who had lunch with the president from talking with reporters. If any of them harbored doubts about heading back to Iraq, many for the third time, they were kept silent.
"It's going to require sacrifice, and I appreciate the sacrifices our troops are willing to make," Bush told the troops. "Some units are going to have to deploy earlier than scheduled as a result of the decision I made. Some will remain deployed longer than originally anticipated."
Among those going early will be members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division based here. Theirs was the division that spearheaded the invasion into Iraq in March 2003 and captured Baghdad. They returned in 2005 and lost 34 troops. Now, instead of heading back in May or June, they will return to Iraq in March.
Soldiers being soldiers, those who met the commander in chief Thursday saluted smartly and applauded politely. But it was hardly the boisterous, rock-star reception Bush typically gets at military bases. During his lunchtime speech, the soldiers were attentive but quiet. Not counting introduction of dignitaries, Bush was interrupted by applause just three times in 30 minutes -- once when he talked about a previous Medal of Honor winner from Fort Benning, again when he pledged to win in Iraq and finally when he repeated his intention to expand the Army.
Bush's speech essentially repeated his address to the nation the night before, and he appeared a little listless as he talked. Aides said he was deliberately low-key to reflect the serious situation. Whether the audience was sobered by the new mission or responding to Bush's subdued tone was unclear, because reporters were ushered out as soon as his talk ended.
White House officials had promised reporters they could talk with soldiers. But that was not good enough for Wojdakowski. "The commanding general said he does not want media talking to soldiers today," spokeswoman Tracy Bailey said. "He wants the focus to be on the president's speech." Only hours later, after reporters complained, did the base offer to make selected soldiers available, but the White House plane was nearing departure. ...
Why the lack of enthusiasm? Try the endless deployments, which just got a bit more endless with Bush's speech, and with this announcement from the Pentagon:
The Pentagon has abandoned its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty, officials said Thursday, a major change that reflects an Army stretched thin by longer-than-expected combat in Iraq.
The day after President Bush announced his plan for a deeper U.S. military commitment in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the change in reserve policy would have been made anyway because active-duty troops already were getting too little time between their combat tours. ...
Meanwhile, Fineman has truly fallen out of love. His online commentary says Bush looked like a scared rabbit during his speechie.
Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, is the REAL maverick in the Republican Party. I haven't caught the CSPAN replay yet, but CNN just played back a portion of Hagel's grilling of Condi Rice at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, and he told Condi to her face that in his opinion, Bush's speech last night was "dangerous," and that his escalation strategy, if implemented, would constititute "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam." Damn. Here's the link.
Apparently, Senator Voinovich of Ohio, who has been known to lose spine from time to time, is with Hagel.
A majority of Americans oppose sending additional troops to Iraq as outlined by President Bush in his nationally televised address Wednesday night, and just one-in-three Americans said the plan for more troops and a stepped up combat efforts by Iraqi forces make victory there more likely, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The findings of the survey, conducted after Bush's primetime speech, represent an initial rebuke to the White House goal of generating additional public support for the mission in Iraq. The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.
Bush fared better among the 42 percent of Americans who actually watched the speech. Among that group, 47 percent support sending more troops, while 51 percent oppose. But the President's supporters were disproportionately represented among the audience. ...
...The poll found sharp partisan divisions on nearly every question relating to Iraq, which grows out of the political polarization that has occurred during Bush's presidency. On the question of whether congressional Democrats should cut off funds for additional forces, 83 percent of Democrats said yes and 81 percent of Republicans said no. Among independents, 51 percent support a cutoff in funding while 47 percent oppose it.
Democrats almost universally oppose Bush's plan. In the poll, 94 percent of Democrats said they were against sending more troops. Republicans were far more supportive, with 73 percent supporting Bush's plan. But nearly a quarter of Republicans in the poll said they opposed more troops, and those signs of dissent with the president's party are being echoed by some Republican lawmakers.
Although majorities of men and women oppose sending more troops to Iraq, there is a gender gap on that issue. Fifty-six percent of men oppose the president's plan while 66 percent of women oppose it. Women also are more likely to support efforts in Congress to cut off funding, with 57 percent saying they would back Democratic moves to do so compared to 48 percent of men.
Sixty percent of Americans between ages 18 and 39 support cutting off funding, compared to 51 percent of those between 40 and 59 and 43 percent of Americans over age 60.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 10, among a random national sample of 502 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin.
U.S. troops raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq late Wednesday night and detained several people, Iran's main news agency reported today, prompting protests from Tehran just hours after President Bush pledged to crack down on the Islamic Republic's role in Iraqi violence.
Iran released news of the raid through its Islamic Republic News Agency in a dispatch that was broadly critical of Bush's plan to deploy about 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
The IRNA report said that U.S. forces entered the Iranian consulate in Irbil, in Iraq's Kurdish-dominated north, and seized computers, documents and other items. The report said five staff members were taken into custody.
The Iranian foreign ministry appealed to the Iraqi government to obtain the release of its personnel.
U.S. officials have not confirmed the raid, but did say that they had taken six people into custody in Irbil during the course of "routine security operations."
Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside.
That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.
According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration's decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.
Officially, the Administration and the State Department insist that the U.S. military mission in Somalia is strictly humanitarian. Oil industry spokesmen dismissed as "absurd" and "nonsense" allegations by aid experts, veteran East Africa analysts and several prominent Somalis that President Bush, a former Texas oilman, was moved to act in Somalia, at least in part, by the U.S. corporate oil stake.
But corporate and scientific documents disclosed that the American companies are well positioned to pursue Somalia's most promising potential oil reserves the moment the nation is pacified. And the State Department and U.S. military officials acknowledge that one of those oil companies has done more than simply sit back and hope for peace. ...
The stability that emerged in southern Somalia after 16 years of utter lawlessness is gone, the defeat of the ruling Islamic Courts Union now ushering in looting, martial law and the prospect of another major anti-Western insurgency. Clan warlords, who terrorized Somalia until they were driven out by the Islamists, and who were put back in power by the U.S.-backed and -trained Ethiopian army, have begun carving up the country once again.
With these developments, the Bush administration, undeterred by the horrors and setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, has opened another battlefront in this volatile quarter of the Muslim world. As with Iraq, it casts this illegal war as a way to curtail terrorism, but its real goal appears to be to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic area of the world through a client regime. The results could destabilize the whole region.
The Horn of Africa, at whose core Somalia lies, is newly oil-rich. It is also just miles across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through that waterway. The United States has a huge military base in neighboring Djibouti that is being enlarged substantially and will become the headquarters of a new U.S. military command being created specifically for Africa. As evidence of the area's importance, Gen. John Abizaid, the military commander of the region, visited Ethiopia recently to discuss Somalia, while Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Horn countries a few months ago in search of oil and trade agreements.
The current series of events began with the rise of the Islamic Courts more than a year ago. The Islamists avoided large-scale violence in defeating the warlords, who had held sway in Somalia ever since they drove out U.N. peacekeepers by killing eighteen American soldiers in 1993, by rallying people to their side through establishing law and order. Washington was wary, fearing their possible support for terrorists. While they have denied any such intentions, some Islamists do have terrorist ties, but these have been vastly overstated in the West.
Washington, however, chose to view the situation only through the prism of its "war on terror." The Bush administration supported the warlords -- in violation of a U.N. arms embargo it helped impose on Somalia many years ago -- indirectly funneling them arms and suitcases filled with dollars.
Many of these warlords were part of the Western-supported transitional "government" that had been organized in Kenya in 2004. But the "government" was so devoid of internal support that even after two years it was unable to move beyond the small western town of Baidoa, where it had settled. In the end, it was forced to turn to Somalia's archenemy Ethiopia for assistance in holding on even to Baidoa. Again in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, Ethiopia sent 15,000 troops to Somalia. Their arrival eroded whatever domestic credibility the government might have had.
The United States, whose troops have been sighted by Kenyan journalists in the region bordering Somalia, next turned to the U.N. Security Council. In another craven act resembling its post-facto legalization of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Council bowed to U.S. pressure and authorized a regional peacekeeping force to enter Somalia to protect the government and "restore peace and stability." This despite the fact that the U.N. has no right under its charter to intervene on behalf of one of the parties struggling for political supremacy, and that peace and stability had already been restored by the Islamists.
The war came soon after the U.N. resolution, its outcome a foregone conclusion thanks to the highly trained and war-seasoned Ethiopian army. The African Union called for the Ethiopians to end the invasion, but the U.N. Security Council made no such call. Ban Ki-moon, the incoming secretary-general, is being urged to treat the enormously complex situation in Darfur as his political challenge, but Somalia, while less complex, is more immediate. He has an opportunity to establish his credentials as an unbiased upholder of the U.N. Charter by seeking Ethiopia's withdrawal. ...
If Maliki’s new security plan is not bad enough, backed by 20,000 more US troops to be dispatched to Baghdad, a bill is about to be passed in the so-called Iraq parliament that received little notice as planned that will give America total control over Iraq oil for the next three decades.
The third-largest oil reserves in the world are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under this controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.
The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent last on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalized in 1972.
Let’s put this into perspective. Invade the country, create civil war so that the population can only think about security, jobs and getting through the day, break up the country into manageable parts, murder the leader of the country, eliminate those who don’t go along, and steal the oil. This was the US plan was from the beginning and this is exactly what is transpiring.
While the huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to those who say the Iraq war was fought for oil, it really doesn’t matter much now. These critics are powerless over a US president back by the Zionist lobbies that do not respect international law of territorial sovereignty.
Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years and will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.
While the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs, we must look past the window dressing. . Iraq is one of the cheapest and easiest places in the world to drill for and produce oil and there are there are hundred of fields already discovered and are waiting to be developed. Big oil will be using ongoing development to keep 75%percent of the profits for ions to come.
Plunder in other words.
Furthermore, under the chapter entitled "Fiscal Regime" in this new bill, the draft spells out that foreign companies have no restrictions on taking their profits out of the country, and are not subject to any tax when doing so. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq but that is twice the industry average for such deals. Iraq's sovereign right to manage its own natural resources could also be threatened by the provision in the draft that any disputes with a foreign company must ultimately be settled by international, rather than Iraqi, arbitration.
Amid the furor of “cavil war” and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad, without the consent of the Iraqi population.
James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire." ...
Well, President Bush has given his speech (full text here), and as far as I'm concerned, he made only one piece of news: he acknowledged moving an additional carrier group into the Persian Gulf to essentially stare down Iran, which Bush tonight accused, along with Syria, of funding, training, and supplying Shiite insurgents inside Iraq. Bush, tonight, has delivered the coup de grace to the apparent waste of time that was the Iraq Study Group. There will be no detente with Iran, only threats, that involve stopping them from getting their "nucular" materiel, and waiting with a hair trigger for them to step out of line in Iraq. The only recommendation from the ISG that has gone into his "new" strategy is to embed American forces with Iraqi units, who he claims are preparing to filter through Baghdad afresh, going from house to house to "regain the confidence of the Iraqi people."
Here's the problem: U.S. forces don't quite trust those Iraqi forces, which Larry Korb from the Center for American Progress just pointed out to me by telephone, aren't multi-sectarian: they're either Shiite regiments or Sunni, and more than a few Americans have suspected some of them of taking part in the ethnic cleansing that's tearing Iraq apart. So we're going to filter about 16,000 troops into these units, with another 4,000 additional troops going to Anbar Province, which Bush tonight called the "most violence province in Iraq outside of Baghdad." So, what can 4,000 troops do in the second most violent province in Iraq? Dr. Korb and I agreed on this one: not much.
And since our force level in Iraq is now at around 135,000, adding 21,000 more bumps it up to 156,000, and guess what folks, we've been there before, and even at higher troops levels. It didn't work then, it won't work now.
So what were the highlights of Bush's tete a tete with America?
9:01 - Bush blames al-Qaida for fomenting the initial violence in Iraq ... in 2006! So what was going on before then, Dubya? And by the way, THERE WAS NO AL-QAIDA IN IRAQ BEFORE WE INVADED. Ah, memories...
Bush links Iran and Syria to Shiite mess-making.
Bush says that mistakes were made, including not sending enough troops in initially, and says "the responsibility for the mistakes lies with me."
9:04 - Bush gets in the obligatory 9/11 reference. Earth to Bush: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11...
Bush also claimed that 80 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq is taking place within 30 miles of Baghdad -- hence, the need to pour on the troop numbers there.
9:05 - Bush says the initial strategy failed because of too few troops, and too many restrictions on the ones who were there. Later in the speech, he says the Iraqi government, led by the untrustworthy (my word) Mr. Maliki, has agreed to turn the U.S. GI's loose, with no restrictions on entering sectarian neighborhoods. Well that oughta endear us to the natives...
Bush says the Iraq government will appoint some new military commandersand such, and deploy 18 brigades of military police types across the 9 districts in Baghdad, apparently with embedded American troops therein. The total U.S. troop commitment Bush is looking for amounts to more than 20,000 troops, including, as mentioned before, 4,000 for Anbar Province. (Even the neocons and their new king, John McCain, acknowledge that if you're surgin', 20,000 ain't enough. But as Dr. Korb just pointed out to me, we haven't got more than the 20,000 Bush is calling for, if we even have that many...)
Bush claims that what's new here (recall, this would be about our third bite at the surge apple,) is that U.S. troops will be unfettered by "political" restrictions, and they'll have the forces necessary to "clear and hold" areas of the city. I guess we'll just have to lean on the Lord for hope there.
9:08 - Bush says he has told Mr. Maliki that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is "not open ended," and that if the Iraqis don't play ball, they'll "lose the support of the American people..." Um ... Mr. Bush ... there IS no more support from the American people.
Bush says that "reducing ther violence in Iraq will make reconciliation possible," and that the U.S. will "hold the Iraqis" to his magic benchmarks." Goodie!
9:10 - You knew this was coming. Bush said the U.S. will give commanders on the ground more flexibility to spend reconstruction funds, and .. he plans to DOUBLE the number of so-called "reconstruction teams" (read civilian contractors) who will teach those poor buggers in Iraq how to run their oil economy and rebuild the country we f---ed up for them.
9:13 - Bush claims that a captured document proves that al-Qaida is seeking to create a new base in Iraq's Anbar province. So, 4,000 troops are going to clean that up? Fabulous!
9:13 - this was the point where Bush essentially threw out the threat to Iran, and secondarily to Syria. We're steaming into the Gulf, bitches. And we're tagging you for every Shiite-led attack on Iraqis and Americans. Boo!
Meanwhile, on Friday, Bushie is sending his gal pal Condi to the region to ... um ... well, it's probably mostly for a photo op, or to mollify that puffter Tony Blair. Oh, Palestine, Israeli crisis, moan, moan, moan...!
Big finish - Bush gravely warns the American people that "the terrorists" will make the next year a bloody, violent one. "We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties." He says that "victory in Iraq will not look like the wars our fathers fought. ... there will be no surrender on a battlefield" or some such malarky. No shit, Sherlock. In fact, there likely will be no victory at all.
And Bush warns that those who are looking for a withdrawal from Iraq would need to tell us what happens next. Says Bush, if we were to break for the exits, the Iraqi government would collapse, and it would be deep doo-doo for the region. He appeared to be trying to put not just Democrats and renegade Republicans on the spot, but also the named governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, who have been cold comfort for him during the long, strange crapshoot in Iraq.
Oh, and there's going to be a new "bi-partisan working group" on "winning the war on terror." And guess who's going to be on board? Well, here's a hint: he's the only member of Congress mentioned by name tonight in Bush's speech, he used to be Democrat, thinks Dubya is a "great leader", and it's someone the Prez has been known to smooch from time to time.
If I'm a Connecticut Democrat, I'm feeling like quite the dumbass tonight. And I'm thinking recall...
Related: Interesting note, the Dems rolled out Barack Obama to the chat shows (Larry King Live and MSNBC) to respond to Bush's speechie. I know Hillary must just want to choke him...
Related 2: Dems, and many Republicans are on the record with their disdain for the president's plan.
Update, 10:16: On Scarborough, Lawrence O'Donnell just pointed out that in New York City tonight, there are 45,000 police on patrol. So adding less than half that number to Baghdad is almost completely meaningless...
Update: Sam Brownback, the conservative Republican who's also running for president, jumps ship
ABC News repots Bush isn't waiting for Congress. His surge is already under way ... Meanwhile, while Bush escalates, the British are cutting bait.
10:27 update: Hillary Clinton has issued a statement opposing the troop surge. It has begun in earnest. As Pat Buchanan says, the right position on Iraq is anti-war.
It's Dubya's time to shine, as he polishes up his new "don't listen to the generals" Iraq strategy ... in prime time, no less! Says the WaPo:
Bush talks frequently of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort and for second-guessing his commanders. "It's important to trust the judgment of the military when they're making military plans," he told The Washington Post in an interview last month. "I'm a strict adherer to the command structure."
But over the past two months, as the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated and U.S. public support for the war has dropped, Bush has pushed back against his top military advisers and the commanders in Iraq: He has fashioned a plan to add up to 20,000 troops to the 132,000 U.S. service members already on the ground. As Bush plans it, the military will soon be "surging" in Iraq two months after an election that many Democrats interpreted as a mandate to begin withdrawing troops.
Pentagon insiders say members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have long opposed the increase in troops and are only grudgingly going along with the plan because they have been promised that the military escalation will be matched by renewed political and economic efforts in Iraq. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the outgoing head of Central Command, said less than two months ago that adding U.S. troops was not the answer for Iraq.
Bush's decision appears to mark the first major disagreement between the White House and key elements of the Pentagon over the Iraq war since Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, split with the administration in the spring of 2003 over the planned size of the occupation force, which he regarded as too small.
It may also be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion. ...
In other words, welcome back, neocons...!
And not only is Bush not listening to the generals, the Congress (including Democrats AND Republicans) or the American people, all of whom oppose an escalation in Iraq, he's also not listening to the Iraqis:
Indeed, when Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30, Maliki did not ask for more American troops as part of a new Baghdad security plan he presented to Bush, U.S. officials said.
Maliki's idea was to lower the U.S. profile, not raise it. "The message in Amman was that he wanted to take the lead and put an Iraqi face on it. He wanted to control his own forces," said a U.S. official familiar with the visit. ...
How much longer until that chubbed-out shrew Rosie O'Donnell gets her fat ass canned by Babwa? How much longer will the freak show that is "The View" continue to darken our television screens? How much more kick-ass funny can Donald Trump be???
Just when you thought it was safe to open Page Six, we get the news that Rosie O blew up at Babs in the ABC dressing room, calling her a "f**king liar" and insisting that Walters has been pushing the Trump-Rosie fued for media buzz. Barbara has publicly denied taking sides in the fued (unlike myself ... I'm for square for The Donald on this one...) but Trump continues to insist that she is anything but neutral, even sending her a letter detailing what he says, she says, about Rosie. First, the blow up:
The fight started around 8:30 a.m. when Walters, back from a two-week vacation, walked into the hair and makeup room at ABC studios and tried to hug O'Donnell, whom she hired onto the popular show. According to spies, O'Donnell recoiled from Walters' touch and yelled, "You kept me in the newspapers this whole time!" Both "View" producer Bill Geddie and Walters tried to calm O'Donnell. Walters told her, "I did everything I could to squash the story" - prompting Rosie to scream, "You didn't call me for 10 goddamn days, and you didn't tell me what you were going to say on television!"
O'Donnell is fuming because Trump went on Larry King two weeks ago - after she had called Trump a "snake-oil salesman" - and said Walters told him she regretted hiring O'Donnell. Trump also blasted the comic as "a horrible human being and a loser."
During her vacation, Walters issued a carefully worded statement saying, "I'm sorry there is friction between Donald and Rosie. That said, I do not regret for one moment my choice to hire Rosie O'Donnell as the moderator of 'The View.' "
After O'Donnell's outburst at Walters yesterday, Geddie jumped in and told her, "You've crossed the line." O'Donnell retorted, "Cameras are now outside of my house where my wife and kids are." She turned to Walters and said, "You went all around this and never called [Trump] a liar. You never said, 'Donald is lying.' You never called him a liar."
When Walters tried to defend herself, O'Donnell erupted, "Are you looking me in the face and denying you didn't tell him you didn't say this? You're a [bleeping] liar." ...
Trump’s letter, sent to The Post and other media outlets, mocks Rosie throughout and reveals conversations when Walters complained to Trump about Rosie’s behavior. "After your maniacal and foolish rant against me two weeks ago, Barbara called me from her vacation (I did not call her) in order to apologize for your behavior," the one-page letter reads. "She had heard that I was going to retaliate against you and tried to talk me out of it."
Trump asserts that Walters urged him to come on "The View" so that she could "patch things up," but he refused. Trump also claims that Walters told him "working with her is like living in hell," and "Donald, never get into the mud with pigs." Walters went so far as to say: "Don’t worry; she won’t be here for long."
Who knows whether Teddy Kennedy is out there on his own in taking the broad opposition to Bush's troop escalation plan for Iraq to the Senate floor (well, at least alone among the Democrats...) But alone or not, Kennedy is right. Iraq is Bush's Vietnam, and if the Congress enables Dubya to behave like LBJ at his most delusional during that prior debacle, then shame on them.
Meanwhile, even some of the troops waver in their confidence in the Commander in Chief. And polls show Bush has almost no support for his war escalation plan.
For gods sake even Oliver North has gone off the reservation! I think all Bushie has left is John Fund and the kooks at the Weekly Standard and AEI...
The new White House counsel is Richard Nixon's old deputy WHC. Talk about bringing back the dead. Could it be any more clear that Bush's presidency is just an extension of Tricky Dick?
Fielding is a senior partner at Wiley Rein & Fielding, a Washington, D.C. law firm. He has served the American government in a number of roles throughout his career. He served as Associate Counsel for President Nixon from 1970 to 1972, where he was the deputy to John Dean during the Watergate scandal. He was the Counsel to the President for President Reagan from 1981 to 1986. Fielding has also served on the Tribunal on the U.S.-UK Air Treaty Dispute (1989-1994), as a member of the president's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform (1989), as a member of the Secretary of Transportation's Task Force on Aviation Disasters (1997-1998) and as a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission).
Oh, and people, including his former boss John Dean, placed bets at one time, over whether he might have been Deep Throat. Funny, that. And why, prey tell, do the Bushies want Fielding? Two words: executive privelege...
"The key for the Administration is going to be drawing the lines on these boundaries of executive privilege and access to documents and congressional oversight — drawing the lines around the really important issues and trying to be a little more flexible on the others," said a former colleague of Fielding. "They're not going to fold, because Fielding is a very serious, hard-nosed person, and he's a tough negotiator. But they're also going not to take a totally stonewall position. That doesn't meant they're going to cave in. What it means is they're going to negotiate and focus on the things that they're truly protecting and that are truly important."
Dean was on with Olbermann tonight, and said Fielding had to practically be dragged kicking and screaming into this job. It won't be pleasant.
Saddam Hussein was summarily executed on the day before New Year's Eve, and now he not only will escape trial for the killing of 180,000 Kurds during the notorious Anfal campaign (he was offed by the Shiite Dawa Party for killing 148 of their own during the 1980s) ... he actually had those charges dropped. Seriously. Read on:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein and his cousin ``Chemical Ali'' discussed how chemical weapons would exterminate thousands before unleashing them on Kurds in 1988, according to tapes played on Monday in a trial of former Iraqi officials.
``I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all,'' a voice identified by prosecutors as ``Chemical Ali'' Hassan al-Majeed is heard saying.
``Who is going to say anything? The international community? Curse the international community,'' the voice continued.
``Yes, it's effective, especially on those who don't wear a mask immediately, as we understand,'' a voice identified as Saddam is heard saying on another tape.
``Sir, does it exterminate thousands?'' a voice asks back.
``Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them,'' the voice identified as Saddam answers.
With Saddam's chair empty, nine days after he was hanged, Majeed and five other Baath party officials were being tried for their roles in the 1988 Anfal (Spoils of War) military campaign in northern Kurdistan.
MANY KURDS GASSED
Prosecutors said 180,000 people were killed, many of them gassed. Many Kurds regret the chief suspect can no longer face justice for his role in the campaign against them, but they hope others share his fate on the gallows.
Saddam was hanged on December 30 after being convicted in an earlier trial for his role in killing 148 Shi'ites in the 1980s.
Majeed, who faces charges of genocide, is considered the main enforcer of the Anfal campaign.
Defendants have said Anfal was a legitimate military operation targeting Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Shi'ite Iran during the last stages of the Iraq-Iran war.
Chief Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon also played on Monday video showing women and children lying dead on village streets and mountain slopes after what he said was a chemical attack ordered by Saddam.
``These are the honorable battles they claimed to have launched against the enemy,'' he told the court.
Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi, in his first order of business, formally dropped charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Saddam. He cut off the microphones when Majeed stood up and started to read the Koran in tribute to his former chief.
``In virtue of the confirmation of the death of defendant Saddam Hussein, the court decided to finally stop legal procedures against defendant Saddam Hussein according to the Iraqi Penal Procedures Law,'' Ureybi told the court.
So Saddam gets a free pass for killing Kurds, but he gets offed quick-fast for killing Shiites. Yep, Iraq is moving forward.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine thought she had herself a nice, though rather mundane little postal reform bill under her belt when she attended the signing ceremony back in December. Little did she know she was opening the door for our Mad King George to assert his right to poke through our first class mail without a warrant. Funny that.
Of course, Tony "I don't know" Snow says it's nothing special, this supposed power of the president to bypass the courts and rip open grandma's Christmas cards ... their being from al-Qaida and all ... Said Snowy:
"This is not a change in law, this is not new, it is not ... a sweeping new power by the president ... It is, in fact, merely a statement of present law and present authorities granted to the president of the United States."
Apparently, Ms. Collins is at a loss as well, having only discovered the special addition to her bill this week, the way the rest of us did, in the New York Daily News.
Why am I reposting this info, which was covered on this blog already? Because, if you actually read the news items about what the Collins bill is about, it has ... wait for it ... NOTHING to do with governmental authority over the mail. It has to do with financial regulations and reforms. For the Bush administration to slap on a measure granting sweeping new powers to the president, in a bill that's mostly about pensions, unions and postal rates, these guys have got to be truly, deeply insane. To whit:
The public will notice little immediate impact, Postmaster General John Potter said in an interview.
Over the long term, though, the measure can have a major impact on the finances of the Postal Service, perhaps delaying or reducing the amount of future rate increases, and assuring a firm basis for retiree health benefits.
One big change shifts responsibility for some retirement benefits from the post office to the treasury.
Many postal workers previously served in the military. Unlike other federal agencies, the post office was required to pay for retirement benefits earned during both military and postal careers of those workers.
The post office will still be responsible for their retirement costs for the time they worked for them, but benefits earned during military service will now be charged to Treasury - relieving the post office of having to pay billions of dollars over coming decades.
That, Potter said, will mean improved financial stability, a benefit for the post office, the public and large mail users because of rate increases that will most likely be less than they otherwise might have been.
In a second major change, a requirement that the post office place around $3 billion annually in an escrow account is ended. The law requires the agency to use that money to fund retiree medical benefits for 10 years. After that the funds may be available for other uses.
Still awake? And have you spotted the opening for the Prez to assert his right to break the seal on your Valentines?
Andrea Koppel of CNN just reported that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (sorry, I just love typing that...) and Senate leader Harry Reid have sent a letter to Dubya, telling him in blunt language that a "troop surge" is an idea that has already been tried, and that has already failed. Not sure whether that means the Dems are laying down the gauntlet on more troops in Iraq (Reid had been one of the Dem Senators supposedly "open" to listening to Bush's surge idea) but it does indicate that Pelosi, who sided with Jack Murtha over Steny Hoyer for Majority leader mainly based on the Iraq issue (plus personal fealty) ... isn't afraid of a fight with the White House over the war. Developing...
President George W. Bush The White House Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.
The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they don’t believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.
Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.
Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.
In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:
“I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement . . In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.
Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.
We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Oh, and another thing: CBS is reporting that despite Bush, McCain and Lieberman's wildest neocon fantasies, the military is telling the Commander in Chief that the maximum number of troops available to carry out the McCain doctrine is not 40,000 or 20,000, but 9.000 soldiers and Marines, “with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S.” (sounds a lot like strategic redeployment ... doesn't it...?
Meanwhile, in what looks increasingly like a likely candidate pairing for 2008, the McCain and Lieberman Show descended on the uber-neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (home of the second-to-last neocon standing, Frederick Kagan ... the other is the ultimate survivor, perennially wrong, but still getting paid to give his opinion, Bill Kristol...) to back Bush's lonely longing for an escalation of the war in Iraq... (more on the lil' visit here ... complete with something both men will get increasingly used to this year: protesters.
Meanwhile, remember that old tale about rats and sinking ships? Guess who's belly flopping into the water now?:
... True, Saddam's hanging was just and, in principle, nonsectarian. But the next hanging might not be. Breaking precedent completely undermines the death penalty provision, opening the way to future revenge and otherwise lawless hangings.
Moreover, Maliki's rush to execute short-circuited the judicial process that was at the time considering Saddam's crimes against the Kurds. He was hanged for the killing of 148 men and boys in the Shiite village of Dujail. This was a perfectly good starting point -- a specific incident as a prelude to an inquiry into the larger canvas of his crimes. The trial for his genocidal campaign against the Kurds was just beginning.
That larger canvas will never be painted. The starting point became the endpoint. The only charge for which Saddam was executed was that 1982 killing of Shiites -- interestingly, his response to a failed assassination attempt by Maliki's own Dawa Party.
Maliki ultimately got his revenge, completing Dawa's mission a quarter-century later. However, Saddam will now never be tried for the Kurdish genocide, the decimation of the Marsh Arabs, the multiple war crimes and all the rest.
Finally, there was the motley crew -- handpicked by the government -- that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned Saddam into the most dignified figure in the room -- another remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of his time.
Worse was the content of the taunts: "Moqtada, Moqtada,'' the name of the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously in the chamber. The world saw Saddam falling through the trap door, executed not in the name of a new and democratic Iraq, but in the name of Sadr, whose death squads have learned much from Saddam.
The whole sorry affair illustrates not just incompetence but the ingrained intolerance and sectarianism of the Maliki government. It stands for Shiite unity and Shiite dominance above all else.
We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government. This governing coalition -- Maliki's Dawa, Hakim's SCIRI and Sadr's Mahdi Army -- seems intent on crushing the Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.
By Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, January 5, 2007; A06
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam.
"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally, not figuratively."
Biden gave the comments in an interview as he outlined an ambitious agenda for the committee, including holding four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of U.S. policy in Iraq. The hearings will call top political, economic and intelligence experts; foreign diplomats; and former and current senior U.S. officials to examine the situation in Iraq and possible plans for dealing with it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will probably testify next Thursday to defend the president's new plan, but at least eight other plans will be examined over several sessions of the committee.
Other witnesses invited for at least 10 days of hearings include former national security advisers and secretaries of state, including Brent Scowcroft, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright and George P. Shultz.
Biden expressed opposition to the president's plan for a "surge" of additional U.S. troops and said he has grave doubts about whether the Iraqi government has the will or the capacity to help implement a new approach. He said he hopes to use the hearings to "illuminate the alternatives available to this president" and to provide a platform for influencing Americans, especially Republican lawmakers.
"There is nothing a United States Senate can do to stop a president from conducting his war," Biden said. "The only thing that is going to change the president's mind, if he continues on a course that is counterproductive, is having his party walk away from his position."
Biden said that Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "are really smart guys who made a very, very, very, very bad bet, and it blew up in their faces. Now, what do they do with it? I think they have concluded they can't fix it, so how do you keep it stitched together without it completely unraveling?"
Meanwhile in a tangential story on Iraq, an American teenager hanged himself while imitating the Saddam execution.
Digging further into the files on the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist is interesting, to say the least. I linked to it yesterday, but in case you missed it, here's just a taste:
The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s Senate confirmation battles in 1971 and 1986 were more intense and political than previously known, according to a newly released FBI file that also offers dramatic new details about Rehnquist’s 1981 hospitalization and dependence on a painkiller.
The FBI file on Rehnquist, released last week under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that in 1971, as Rehnquist’s confirmation hearings for associate justice approached, the Nixon Justice Department asked the FBI to run a criminal background check on at least two potential witnesses who were expected to testify against Rehnquist. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover approved the request.
In July 1986, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist to be chief justice, the Justice Department asked the FBI to interview witnesses who were preparing to testify that Rehnquist had intimidated minority voters as a Republican Party official in Arizona in the early 1960s. According to a memo in the Rehnquist file, an unnamed FBI official cautioned that the department “should be sensitive to the possibility that Democrats could charge the Republicans of misusing the FBI and intimidating the Democrats’ witnesses.” But then-Assistant Attorney General John Bolton — who more recently served as ambassador to the United Nations — signed off on the request and said he would “accept responsibility should concerns be raised about the role of the FBI.” It is unclear whether the FBI ever interviewed the witnesses.
Also in 1986, the FBI conducted an intensive investigation into Rehnquist’s dependence on Placidyl, a strong painkiller that he had taken since the early 1970s for insomnia and back pain. Rehnquist’s bout with drug dependence had been made public in 1981, when he was hospitalized for his back pain and suffered withdrawal symptoms when he stopped taking the drug.
The FBI’s 1986 report on Rehnquist’s drug dependence was not released at the time of his confirmation, though some Democratic senators wanted it made public. But it is in Rehnquist’s now-public file, and it contains new details about his behavior during his weeklong hospital stay in December 1981. One physician whose name is blocked out told the FBI that Rehnquist expressed “bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him.” ...
Nancy Pelosi gave one hell of a speech to become the third most powerful individual, and the single most powerful woman in America -- one drinks bender/cocaine overdose and one heart attack away from the presidency. She followed John Boehner's rather moody introduction, including his tribute to Gerald Ford and his ironic imputation to "be nice" in the next Congress. Pelosi laid out clearly that she will provide firm leadership on the issues that matter to Americans (one can hope, and today, at least, I'm willing to hope,) including Iraq, but that when it comes to the House of Representatives, it's mama's world. She showed a light touch (which I'm sure conceals a hell of a knife collection) by gushing about how the support of her family allowed her to go "from the kitchen to the Congress." I loved the touch at the end of bringing all the Congressional kids to the stage (it's all about the children.) And she vowed to force the Congress to do something it hasn't done in recent memory: pay for its programs as you go. Clearly, a traumatized and exhausted country needs some good mothering, and if you ask me, Nancy's just the grandma to git 'er done. Here's the text of her speech. Cliff notes: "embrace girl power..."
Now I must admit this came as a surprise to me. Christopher Hitchens: liberal Kurdophile, Iraq war booster and neocon horse whisperer, inveighs against the lynching of Saddam ... an embarrassing event in which the U.S. played the part of the Southern sheriff handing the negro inmate over to the white mob. A clip:
The disgusting video of Saddam Hussein's last moments on the planet is more than a reminder of the inescapable barbarity of capital punishment and of the intelligible and conventional reasons why it should always be opposed. The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution. At one point, one of the attending magistrates can be heard appealing for decency and calm, but otherwise the fact must be faced: In spite of his mad invective against "the Persians" and other traitors, the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself.
ow could it have come to this? Did U.S. officials know that the designated "executioners" would be the unwashed goons of Muqtada Sadr's "Mahdi Army"—the same sort of thugs who killed Abdul Majid al-Khoei in Najaf just after the liberation and who indulge in extra-judicial murder of Iraqis every night and day? Did our envoys and representatives ask for any sort of assurances before turning over a prisoner who was being held under the Geneva Conventions? According to the New York Times, there do seem to have been a few insipid misgivings about the timing and the haste, but these appear to have been dissolved soon enough and replaced by a fatalistic passivity that amounts, in theory and practice, to acquiescence in a crude Shiite coup d'état. Thus, far from bringing anything like "closure," the hanging ensures that the poison of Saddamism will stay in the Iraqi bloodstream, mingling with other related infections such as confessional fanaticism and the sort of video sadism that has until now been the prerogative of al-Qaida's dehumanized ghouls. We have helped to officiate at a human sacrifice. For shame. ...
Indeed. Hitchens makes the point that I've been making -- that to yank Saddam Hussein out of the Anfal trial in order to serve him up to the Shiite militias is beyond repugnant, and beyond stupid. It's a slap in the face to the Kurds (a key point for Hitchens,) who were the victims of the Anfal campaign, to the tune of some 180,000 people, and not only did it deny justice to them in the form of a trial and full airing of grievances, it denied the world the opportunity to put Saddam in some form of perspective, not to mention the fact that it created a rallying point for militant Sunnis everywhere: Saddam himself. Now, the brutality remains starkly on our end, as we sat, "shamefaced and silent" in Hitchens words, while a savage mob of Sadrists took pistol shots at a dead man they didn't have the guts to overthrow when he had actual power. How very brave of them. Read the entire column. For once, given who wrote it, it's worth every word.
Before the subpoenas arrive, better get a real lawyer in there
Harriet Miers is resigning from her job as White House counsel. I guess Bush loyalty only goes so far -- now that the hearings are about to begin, he recognize he'd better have a qualified lawyer around...
WASHINGTON - President Bush plans to order extra U.S. troops to Iraq as part of a new push to secure Baghdad, but in smaller numbers than previously reported, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The president, who is completing a lengthy review of Iraq policy, is considering dispatching three to four U.S. combat brigades to Iraq, or no more than 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, the officials said. Bush is expected to announce his decision next week.
Typically, a combat brigade comprises about 3,500 combat troops and more than 1,000 support personnel.
"Instead of a surge, it is a bump," said a State Department official. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because Bush hasn't yet unveiled details of what the White House is calling a "new way forward" in Iraq.
Bush had been considering proposals to send a much larger contingent into Baghdad -- as many as 30,000-40,000 soldiers and Marines.
Some experts doubt that the smaller deployment would be sufficient to halt Iraq's escalating civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To marshal even 15,000 to 20,000 additional troops, Bush would have to accelerate the return of some units to the battlefield, cutting their time to train between deployments.
Advocates of a "surge" in U.S. troop levels have argued that to be effective in halting the violence, the United States would have to send a significant number of troops for an extended period of time.
Frederick W. Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy research center, recently briefed the White House on his plan to send 32,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Baghdad and volatile Anbar province. The troops would remain in Iraq for 18 months.
On Wednesday, Kagan cautioned against over-interpreting the number of troops being sent. More important, he said, is the number of individual combat brigades and battalions sent to Iraq and how they're deployed.
The State Department official said that, even at this late juncture, administration officials are debating what the extra troops would do.
So the neocons still in charge of U.S. policy want a full-on escalation, but Team Bush hasn't even gotten straight what the extra forces would do? Priceless... And what happens if we surge and it doesn't work, Mr. Kagan? ... hm....
On another matter not directly related to the McCain doctrine:
Nancy and Co take over the House today and Harry Reid and his fellow travelers, including that sniveling weasel Republicrat Joe Lieberman, begin to rule the Senate. So what's on the agenda for the first 100 hours? Here 'tis, from Pelosi's web-site:
Tuesday, January 9 - Implement the 9/11 Commission Recommendations
Wednesday, January 10 - Increase the Minimum Wage
Thursday, January 11 - Expand Stem Cell Research
Friday, January 12 - Allow Negotiation for Lower Prescription Drug Costs
Wednesday, January 17 - Cut Interest Rates on Student Loans
Thursday, January 18 - End Subsidies for Big Oil and Invest in Renewable Energy
No amount of international pressure can stop the execution of two men sentenced to death alongside Saddam Hussein, a top Iraqi official has said. Sami al-Askari told the BBC the law did not allow for death sentences to be commuted, even by the president.
No date has been announced for the execution of Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and former chief judge Awad al-Bandar.
The United Nations has urged the Iraqi government not to execute them.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she had appealed directly to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, saying her concerns about the fairness of Saddam Hussein's trial also applied to his co-defendants.
Under international law the men should have the chance to seek a pardon or have their sentences commuted, she said.
But Mr Askari told the BBC's Arabic service: "Nobody can stop the carrying out of court verdicts. The court's statute does not allow even the president of the republic or the prime minister to commute sentences, let alone grant a pardon.
"Therefore, no pressure can stop the executions."
Meanwhile, there are now three people under arrest for that notorious cell phone video of Saddam's lynch-like hanging in the presence of Al-Sadr militants.
Iraqi authorities reported the arrests Wednesday of two guards and an official who supervised Saddam Hussein's hanging and said the guard force was infiltrated by outsiders who taunted the former leader and shot the video showing his body dangling at the end of a rope.
The unauthorized video, which ignited protests by Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs in various Iraqi cities after it appeared on the Internet, threatens to turn the ousted dictator into a martyr. Saddam was shown never bowing his head as he faced death and asking the hecklers if they were acting in a manly way.
The Bush administration sent conflicting signals Wednesday about the taunting and baiting that accompanied the execution, with the White House declining to join criticism of the procedure and the State Department and U.S. military publicly raising questions about it.
National security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie and two other top officials variously reported one to three men were being questioned in the investigation into who heckled Saddam as he was minutes from death and took cell phone pictures of his execution.
Sami al-Askeri, a Shiite lawmaker who advises Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said two "Justice Ministry guards were being questioned."
As the storm over the handling of the hanging gained strength, Caldwell was among several U.S. officials who suggested displeasure with the conduct of the execution.
"If you are asking me, 'Would we have done things differently?' – yes, we would have. But that's not our decision. That's the government of Iraq's decision," the general said.
The White House declined to join in the criticism.
And little wonder. This doesn't make us look good.
George W. Bush (or rather, some aide who will only be revealed in the memoirs) sits right down and writes himself a letter to the Democrats, and ships it off to the Wall Street Journal. In it, he calls for ... wait for it ... bipartisanship. Ahem.
Tomorrow, members of the 110th Congress will take their oaths of office here in Washington. I will have the privilege of working with them for the next two years--one quarter of my presidency, plenty of time to accomplish important things for the American people.
Together, we have a chance to serve the American people by solving the complex problems that many don't expect us to tackle, let alone solve, in the partisan environment of today's Washington. To do that, however, we can't play politics as usual. Democrats will control the House and Senate, and therefore we share the responsibility for what we achieve.
Well isn't that nice. Of course, he then goes on to say, pass my tax cuts, do what I want in Iraq, and give me a line item veto.
The Nouri al-Maliki government is promising to investigate the taunting and jeering of Saddam Hussein by what appeared to be Shiite militants loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr during his hanging. The incident, which was captured on a cellphone cam, has ambarassed the Shiite-led Iraqi government, as well as moderate Shia and Kurds across that country, who now have about a snowball's chance in hell of pacifying Sunni insurgents and winning them into the coalition government. And while the investigation gets underway, and the Maliki government scrambles, watch as the Americans seek to take one giant step away from the hanging of the former Public Enemy Number One:
Officials said a three-man Interior Ministry committee would look into the scenes that have caused outrage and public demonstrations among Mr. Hussein’s Sunni Arab loyalists in Iraq, and widespread dismay elsewhere, especially in the Middle East. In an unofficial cellphone video recording that was broadcast around the world and posted on countless Web sites, Mr. Hussein is shown standing on the gallows platform with the noose around his neck at dawn on Saturday, facing a barrage of mockery and derision from unseen tormentors below the gallows.
As the shock of those scenes reached a new crescendo in Iraq, American officials said that they had worked until the last hours of Mr. Hussein’s life to persuade Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to delay the execution. The officials, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said they appealed to Mr. Maliki not to execute Mr. Hussein at dawn on Saturday because of the onset of a major Islamic festival, and because of constitutional and legal questions that the Americans believed threw the legitimacy of the execution into doubt.
But when Mr. Maliki decided to go ahead with the hanging, the Americans said they made no further attempts to stop it, having concluded that they could advise the Iraqis against the execution, but not prevent it if the Iraqis persisted, out of respect for Iraqi sovereignty.
When asked if that decision had been made in the White House, the Americans refused to say, noting only that it came some time before the final exchanges on Friday night. Mr. Hussein was hanged at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday, about seven hours after what the officials said was their final attempt to postpone the hanging.
“We told the prime minister that going forward on the first day of Id would have a negative reaction in the Islamic world, and among the Iraqi people,” a senior American official said, recounting a telephone conversation with Mr. Maliki that began at 10:30 p.m. Baghdad time on Friday. The reference was to the Id al-Adha holiday, which began for Sunnis on Saturday, marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. “Therefore,” the official said, “we said we thought it would be better if they delayed until after Id, and use the delay to resolve the legal issues.”
The American official said that Mr. Maliki had never fully explained his urgency in carrying out the death sentence, which was upheld last Tuesday in an appeals court ruling that set off a 30-day countdown for executions to be carried out after a final appeal has been turned down. But the prime minister gave one explanation that appeared to weigh heavily on his mind, the American said, and that was his fear that Mr. Hussein might be the subject of an insurgent attempt to free him if the procedural wrangling over the execution were protracted.
With some Iraqi politicians raising fresh demands for Mr. Maliki’s dismissal, the Americans, in offering to have a senior official discuss the matter in a telephone interview with The New York Times, appeared eager to protect the Bush administration from a fresh surge of criticism for its handling of events in Iraq.
The official said that among American officials in Iraq who had tried to stop Mr. Maliki from rushing Mr. Hussein to the gallows, the reaction to the scenes of abuse had been one of dismay.
“Well, yes, when I think of the behavior of the people who were there, I’m disappointed and distressed, that’s true,” the official who spoke in the telephone interview said. He said he had been one of the Americans who intervened with Mr. Maliki on Friday night and earlier last week to try to delay the hanging.
Mr. Maliki seemed equally eager to ward off the opprobrium stirred by the execution. His aides announced that the events at the hanging would be the subject of an inquiry. A prosecutor who attended the execution, Munkith al-Faroun, said he thought one of the invited witnesses had recorded the session on a cellphone, but he could not recall his name.
The government inquiry was ordered as a groundswell of protest grew at Sunni population centers across Iraq. The protests, sporadic in the first 72 hours after the hanging, appeared to be building in intensity as Iraqi and American troops relaxed security cordons that had been thrown around centers of diehard support for Mr. Hussein, including his hometown, Tikrit, 100 miles north of Baghdad, and Awja, the village where he was born, a few miles away. The protesters carried portraits of Mr. Hussein, chanted his name, and fired weapons in the air.
Thousands of mourners flocked to Awja, where Mr. Hussein’s body has lain in a reception hall. The body, in a plain wood coffin draped in an Iraqi flag, has become a point of pilgrimage for loyalists. Many of those reaching Awja have wept as they filed past the coffin, shouting slogans of fealty of the kind that were universal in Iraq when Mr. Hussein was the country’s dictator.
“Maliki, you coward, you are an American agent,” cried one demonstrator in Tikrit, referring to the prime minister. “Iran, out, out!” another man shouted, echoing anger among Sunnis at the rise to power in Baghdad of Shiite religious groups backed by Iran, including Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party.
Next comes news that the hanging nearly was halted by the prosecutor who can be heard on the cellphone camera calling for onlookers to behave in something like a dignified manner, and we're getting some hints as to who took the video, which TPM and others are calling a snuff film...
Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, who is heard appealing for order on explicit Internet video of Saturday's hanging that has inflamed sectarian passions, said on Tuesday he threatened to leave if the jeering did not stop --
and that would have halted the execution as a prosecution observer must be present by law.
"I threatened to leave," Faroon told Reuters. "They knew that if I left, the execution could not go ahead."
Many in Saddam's Sunni minority, and moderate Shi'ites and Kurds, have been angered and embarrassed by the video. In it, observers chant "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!" for Shi'ite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Saddam by contrast looks dignified on the gallows and replies: "Is this what you call manhood?"
As the Iraqi government mounted an investigation into how officials smuggled in mobile phone cameras, he also challenged the accounts of the justice minister and an adviser to the prime minister who said the film was shot by a guard -- Faroon said one of two people taking video was a senior government official.
"Two officials were holding mobile phone cameras," said Faroon, who was a deputy prosecutor in the case for which Saddam was hanged and is the chief prosecutor in a second trial that will continue against his aides for genocide against the Kurds.
"One of them I know. He's a high-ranking government official," Faroon said, declining to name the man. "The other I also know by sight, though not his name. He is also senior.
"I don't know how they got their mobiles in because the Americans took all our phones, even mine which has no camera."
Faroon said he was the only prosecutor from Saddam's trial for crimes against humanity against the people of the Shi'ite town of Dujail who was present in Baghdad. The Penal Code stipulates that one prosecutor must be present at any execution.
Update: There has been an arrest in the videotaping and taunting show:
The Iraqi government has reportedly made an arrest in connection with the unauthorized cell-phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution.
An adviser to Iraq's prime minister says the person believed to have shot that video is under arrest. And he describes the man as "an official who supervised the execution."
Iraqi state T-V today aired an official video of Saddam's hanging, with no audio and no images of Saddam's actual death.
The inflammatory cell-phone video -- with taunts from witnesses -- appeared on Arab T-V and the Internet. And it touched off worldwide protests and demonstrations by Iraq's minority Sunnis.
An Iraqi prosecutor who was also at the execution has denied another report implicating Iraq's national security adviser in the leaked video.
On Wednesday, an Iraqi prosecutor who was also present at the execution denied a report that he had accused National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie of possible responsibility for the leaked video.
"I am not accusing Mowaffak al-Rubaie, and I did not see him taking pictures," Munqith al-Faroon, a prosecutor in the case that sent Saddam to the gallows, told The Associated Press.
"But I saw two of the government officials who were ... present during the execution taking all the video of the execution, using the lights that were there for the official taping of the execution. They used mobile phone cameras. I do not know their names, but I would remember their faces," al-Faroon said in a telephone interview.
The prosecutor said the two officials were openly taking video pictures, which are believed to be those which appeared on Al-Jazeera satellite and a Web site within hours of Saddam's execution.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that al-Faroon told the newspaper "one of two men he had seen holding a cell phone camera aloft to make a video of Mr. Hussein's last moments up to and past the point where he fell through the trapdoor was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki's national security adviser."
The Times said it had been unable to reach al-Rubaie for comment. AP also could not reach him Wednesday. His secretary said the security adviser, a close aide to al-Maliki, was in Najaf and would not return until later.
Al-Faroon said there were 14 Iraqi officials, including himself and another prosecutor, as well as three hangmen present for the execution. All the officials, he said, were flown by U.S. helicopter to the former military intelligence facility where Saddam was put to death in an execution chamber used by his own security men for years.
Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein, by behaving in a more dignified manner than his executioners, has secured his place as a Sunni martyr, and a rallying point around which radical Sunnis (like, al-Qaida, for instance) can converge.
Update: Here's a phrase you're going to hear a lot: Saddam's hanging and taunting likened to a sectarian lynching... a pertinent question people are asking around the Arab and Muslim world: what were members of the Mahdi Army -- perhaps the most pernicious militia group in the country -- doing as part of an official delegation of witnesses to the execution of that country's former leader?
The NYT has more info on what helped to usher Rummy out the door...
Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in ’06, Bush Team Says
By DAVID E. SANGER, MICHAEL R. GORDON and JOHN F. BURNS
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 — President Bush began 2006 assuring the country that he had a “strategy for victory in Iraq.” He ended the year closeted with his war cabinet on his ranch trying to devise a new strategy, because the existing one had collapsed.
The original plan, championed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Baghdad, and backed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, called for turning over responsibility for security to the Iraqis, shrinking the number of American bases and beginning the gradual withdrawal of American troops. But the plan collided with Iraq’s ferocious unraveling, which took most of Mr. Bush’s war council by surprise.
In interviews in Washington and Baghdad, senior officials said the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department had also failed to take seriously warnings, including some from its own ambassador in Baghdad, that sectarian violence could rip the country apart and turn Mr. Bush’s promise to “clear, hold and build” Iraqi neighborhoods and towns into an empty slogan.
This left the president and his advisers constantly lagging a step or two behind events on the ground.
“We could not clear and hold,” Stephen J. Hadley, the president’s national security adviser, acknowledged in a recent interview, in a frank admission of how American strategy had crumbled. “Iraqi forces were not able to hold neighborhoods, and the effort to build did not show up. The sectarian violence continued to mount, so we did not make the progress on security we had hoped. We did not bring the moderate Sunnis off the fence, as we had hoped. The Shia lost patience, and began to see the militias as their protectors.”
Over the past 12 months, as optimism collided with reality, Mr. Bush increasingly found himself uneasy with General Casey’s strategy. And now, as the image of Saddam Hussein at the gallows recedes, Mr. Bush seems all but certain not only to reverse the strategy that General Casey championed, but also to accelerate the general’s departure from Iraq, according to senior military officials.
General Casey repeatedly argued that his plan offered the best prospect for reducing the perception that the United States remained an occupier — and it was a path he thought matched Mr. Bush’s wishes. Earlier in the year, it had.
But as Baghdad spun further out of control, some of the president’s advisers now say, Mr. Bush grew concerned that General Casey, among others, had become more fixated on withdrawal than victory.
Now, having ousted Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush sees a chance to bring in a new commander as he announces a new strategy, senior military officials say. General Casey was scheduled to shift out of Iraq in the summer. But now it appears that it may happen in February or March.
The WaPo's Richard Cohen comes to the defense of America's fallen lady, and smacks down the media for continuing to treat her like a punch line:
She is a branded woman, not an adulterer but something even worse -- a girl toy, a trivial thing, a punch line. Yet she did what so many women at that age would do. She seduced (or so she thought) an older man. She fantasized that he would leave his wife for her. Here was her crime: She was a girl besotted. It happens even to Republicans.
But she is now a woman with a master's degree from a prestigious school and is going to be 34 come July. Her clock ticks, her life ebbs. Where is the man for her? Where is the guy brave enough, strong enough, admirable enough to take her as his wife, to suffer the slings and arrows of her outrageous fortune -- to say to the world (for it would be the entire world) that he loves this woman who will always be an asterisk in American history. I hope there is such a guy out there. It would be nice. It would be fair.
It would be nice, too, and fair, also, if Lewinsky were treated by the media as it would treat a man. What's astounding is the level of sexism applied to her, as if the wave of the women's movement broke over a new generation of journalists and not a drop fell on any of them. Where, pray tell, is the man who is remembered just for sex? Where is the guy who is the constant joke for something he did in his sexually wanton youth? Maybe here and there some preacher, but in those cases the real subject matter is not sex but hypocrisy. Other than those, no names come to mind.
This is the year 2007, brand new and full of promise. It would be nice if my colleagues in the media would resolve to treat Monica Lewinsky as a lady, to think of her as they would themselves, to remember their own youth and the things they did and to understand that from this day forward anyone who takes a cheap shot at Lewinsky has a moral and professional obligation to look in the mirror.
Then there's word from CNN that the U.S. reportedly sought to delay the execution of Saddam Hussein for a few weeks ... to time it for George W. Bush's state of the union speech ... er ... to prevent it looking like the latest Shia revenge killing.